‘One O’Clock From The House’ was eccentric.
Pet shopping trolleys, drunk husbands and a father meddling with his daughters are all cards on the table at Gold Coast Little Theatre’s season closer, ‘One O’Clock From The House’, a black comedy written by Frank Vickory and directed by Dawn China.
The show follows a British family who have just lost their father and explores how four quarrelling sisters deal with each other in a time of need. While the pace suffered from slower moments during longer scenes of dialogue, the moments of outrageous one-liners and outlandish situations outweighed these challenges. The plot treads through some darker moments, revealing a family very much fractured by their distance and shared grief. It examines how class differences can separate loved ones, how society treats mental illness and how people treat each other during challenging times. ‘One O’Clock From The House’ emerges as a hilarious romp through a funeral, usually not an occasion for laughter, with this peculiar, yet realistic family.
The set, designed by Russel Williams, was decked out in a deep blue, setting the mournful, yet whimsical scene before the cast took to the stage. It was a slice-of-life style set and was reminiscent of a sterile family living room. Costume design by Shirley Whitehouse was well-researched and visually complemented the very pedestrian British characters, in the ’80s style. The costuming of Josey and Mavis was a highlight, with the traditional punk vibe of the rebellious Josey and the mismatched patterns of Mavis’s costume making them stand out as the black sheep of the family. The warm, homely lighting design by Laurie Esmond complemented the living room set and assisted in giving scenes their place in the time of day. All of the visual design elements of ‘One O’Clock From The House’ worked in harmony to give a true-to-life ’80s backdrop.
While the ’80s setting may give some directors a licence to be as big and bold as they possibly can, Dawn China kept the production grounded in reality. Despite some of the more eccentric plot points and characters of ‘One O’Clock From The House’, the play felt strongly rooted in real life, with each of the slightly kooky story elements feeling relatable. Most people have a drunk uncle, a family member they speak in hushed tones around or a rebellious teen in their families. The core of the comedy in the show was built around its familiarity to the lives of the audience. China and assistant director Barry Gibson clearly have a reverence for British black comedy and all elements of their direction, both creative and technical, expressed this passion.
Some outstanding moments of directorial magic in the show were the scene changes. They were sharp moments of comedic climaxes, abruptly cut by blackouts, which left the audience in uproarious laughter and eager to see what might happen next.
The performances in ‘One O’Clock From The House’ were some of the most realistic and true to life seen in community theatre. Shelley Jacks as Miriam carried the show and delivered a multi-dimensional woman with complex familial relationships. Jimmy Corbett as her husband, Austin, played the dutiful husband throughout the sisters’ antics and incorporated some clever but subtle comedy. Ashlee Press as Josey played the rocking, rebellious teenage girl with attitude, but did express genuine care for the more vulnerable members of the family. Di O’Ferral played a snobby Margaret, and combined with Peta Shultz’s humorous and humble Maureen, gave an interesting insight into how class differences can divide a family.
A comedic highlight of the night was bumbling husband and wife duo Avril and Tudor, played by Del Halpin and Bob Allen respectively. They were the classic unwanted distant family members who don’t know how to take a hint that the party is over. The absolute standout of the show was Lilas Davie as Mavis, who immediately lifted the mood of the show whenever she took to the stage. She played into some of the darker elements of the character, and one could feel tangible anticipation for Mavis’s next quip or peculiar action. The cast as a unit worked to create a convincing family dynamic, not to mention delivering all of their lines in a Northern English accent, which is no easy feat.
All in all, Gold Coast Little Theatre’s production of ‘One O’Clock From The House’ is a must-see for any fan of British comedy or anyone with a darker sense of humour. It is a joyful, yet sombre introspection into what it means to mourn as a family and a nod to all of those offbeat characters that make a family.
‘One O’Clock From The House’ performs until Saturday, 11 December at Gold Coast Little Theatre. For more information visit Gold Coast Little Theatre’s website.
Photography by TTL Photography.