It’s one of the highlight events of Mardi Gras Central at the Seymour Centre, and deservedly so. Jen Silverman’s hilarious gothic farce, a cryptic homage to the Bronte sisters, is witty, camp, slightly titillating, and loads of fun.
In a manor house on the moors somewhere in England, live two sisters, Agatha (Romy Bartz) and Huldey (Enya Daly), their dog, Mastiff (Thomas Campbell), and a split personality maid who is Marjory in the parlour and Mallory in the scullery (Diana Popovska). There is also an unseen, unheard brother, Branwell, imprisoned in the attic. One day, a governess arrives bearing a ukulele case and bubbling with enthusiasm (a la Maria to the Von Trapp household). The governess, Emilie (Brielle Flynn) has been lured by salacious letters she mistakenly believes were written by Branwell. Steamy dalliances, murderous plots, and much diary writing ensue. Meanwhile, Mastiff has kindled an unlikely, ill-fated romance with a moorhen (Alex Francis).
The set is minimal but very effective. A voluminous dark satin curtain hangs as a backdrop and a chandelier glows above centre stage. There are two antique chairs and that’s pretty much it for set design, other than a revolve that is used brilliantly for choreographed humour. With little in the way of furniture and special effects, the success of the play relies heavily on nuanced performance and delivery of lines.
“We did a lot of work on making it very quick and getting the timing right,” says Bartz. Her character, Agatha, is austere and unreactive, and she admits it was a challenge remaining dead-pan in her scenes with Daly’s Huldey.
“Enya is very, very funny,” says Bartz.
Daly utterly steals the show with a maniacal dance sequence towards the end in which she references Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights.
“I watched the video and learnt all the steps,” admits Daly.
This is a festival “must see”! It’s wily, it’s windy, and you’ll want more.
Until Mar 1.Seymour Centre, Cnr Cleveland St and City Rd, Chippendale. $33-$55+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.seymourcentre.com
Reviewed by Rita Bratovich