It was great to see the FringeHQ Newtown open its first show after the lockdown lifted.
Directed by Erica Lovell and produced for independent theatre company Rogue Projects by Talia Meyerowitz-Katz, Wil and Grace is a fluffy piece of theatre by Madeleine Withington (who also plays Grace),that will appeal to the youth of this fair city.
It opens on a stormy evening in Petersham, when Varya (SuzMawer), the forceful realist bitch (and owner of the property), and her tenant and friend Grace, the neurotic fantasist, conduct a séance to bring back the dead.
Grace longs to bring back William Shakespeare, so when, next day, they find a naked young man asleep on their couch, who does Grace think he is? William Shakespeare of course (played by Joshua Shediak), actually James, an English backpacker who has accidentally stumbled into their house after a boozy night.
Unfortunately, Shediak did not have a chance to shine in this production, the script making him a cipher, a schtick in Yiddish, a foil for the two women.
Grace beds him without further ado, as young people do, but admits to him that she knows he is not William Shakespeare, but chooses to believe he is.
Eventually she chases Wil/James out of the house, but after finding a note from him, runs after him, presumably to bed him again.
Two elements in the play disturb me:
Grace’s preference for acting out a fantasy while her father is dying and failing to visit him. Her father dies before she can get to see him.
Varya steals the young man’s passport and phone.
The first point suggests Grace needs urgently to consult a counsellor or an ethics advisor, while Varya commits an act punishable by law.
“Narcissistic theatre for the me-generation,” I heard from an audience member as I was leaving the theatre.
I disagree. The writer/performer created an entertaining piece in her first play, which had the audience laughing and clearly enjoying it, and it was terrific to see NewtownHQand Rogue Projects provide an opportunity for youth to cut their teeth on the boards.
The acting and directing were terrific, even if I found the play somewhat unbaked.
The program warns that, this production contains:
sudden loud sound effects
references to anxiety and alcohol abuse
discussion of death, grief and mental health
So you have been warned.
Even so, it was fantastic to see Newtown bristling with activity on a Friday night, when the FringeHQ was able to once again welcome people through its doors.