St Brides Centre
Review by Thom Dibdin
There’s more than mere comedy to the Luvvies new production of Gary Pedler’s Gaydonia, which receives its world premier at the St Bride’s Centre this week until Saturday.
Amidst the absurdist laughs and stylised overacting, Pedler has something quite profound to say about the indelicate grasping of the tourist dollar by civic authorities, so desperate to cure all their financial woes that they jeopardise that which might have made the tourists come in the first place.
First and foremost, however, this is a fun romp which uses misconception and stereotype to great effect. Gary Reid plays Davor Matosic, finance minister of the middle-European state of Zablvacia – so tiny most people don’t believe it exists. Davor is full of grand ideas, but none so grand as when his son Ivo returns home from America with his boyfriend Cliff in tow.
New Dad that he is, Davor’s reaction to this startling news – which everyone else had known for years, of course – is to turn the country into a gay resort. Whether his colleagues or compatriots want it or not, they will fly the rainbow flag, make the tourists happy by learning all the gay ways, and even change the name of their country to Gaydonia.
Bring on the outmoded misconceptions and dancing stereotypes!
Amidst a cast who have cart blanche to have fun with their characters, Alison Rabour does so more than most as she overplays grandma Vuksa with great relish. Once a great singing star of the Zablvacian stage Vuksa is now reduced to boring everyone with her anecdotes, making snide remarks about her son and knocking back the walnut brandy.
Barbara-Ann Gray shrugs her shoulders in perfect indolent disinterest as Ivo’s sulky teenage sister Matija, who just wants to design things and play her saxophone. Katy Dimmock needs to speak out more for the audience’s benefit, but it is quite in keeping with her creation of Davor’s long-suffering wife, Matija.
Spirals wildly into the realms of the surreal
The plot quickly spirals wildly into the realms of the surreal as the action moves to the cabinet of David Dalzell’s wonky, forgetful Prime Minister Petra. Laura Szalecki is excellent as Ranka Vilovic, whose rival idea to turn round the country’s ailing economy lies in the creation of a line of mediocre baked goods – Good Enough – which are so bland as to help the world slim.
There is a balance here, however, thanks to Daniel Cairns as Ivo and Brett Herriot as boyfriend Cliff. Cairns plays Ivo as a chip of the old (financial) block, going along with dad’s ideas and helping him to force and bribe people into being what they clearly aren’t.
Herriot’s Cliff could be a bit more forceful, but he succeeds in conveying a quite understandable level of dismay as he watches everything he actually liked about the country being demeaned or destroyed by Davor and Ivo’s grand ideas.
As a play this has great potential, although it is all a bit dialogue heavy. There are long stretches where Pedler falls back on the potentially tedious tactic of having Navenka write off a letter to her pen-pal. Fortunately Barbara-Ann Gray ensures that these episodes fall out with wry humour, but you do feel that this is a point where radio is beckoning.
As a production it works well enough, although there is still plenty of distance for the Luvvies to take it. Roger Burroughes’ direction ensures that the story is told and the narrative is clean. But there is so much more fun which could have been had, without necessarily having to tip over into cliché or the excesses of camp.
A somewhat prosaic but none the less highly entertaining production. There are some delicious moments of real comedy and it works its ideas well.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Run ends Saturday 14 April 2012
Shows: daily 7.30pm
Luvvies Website: www.theluvvies.org