November 13, 2018


Mayfair Theatre
Saturday, November 10  

Otago Daily Times, Monday 12 November 2018  

Fortune Theatre farwelled with appropriate frivolity  

The Fortune Theatre closed, suddenly and shockingly, six months ago, and this memorial occasion could have been sombre – but Farewell to the Fortune, produced by Stage South, was nothing of the sort. Billed as a “gala” and promising “fun & frivolity,” it consisted of excerpts from four of theatre’s best-loved comedies.

A farcical scene from The Sex Fiend, by Danny Mulheron and Stephen Sinclair, had the audience roaring at the clash of extreme political correctness and kiwi-bloke values. The beginning of Roger Hall’s Conjugal Rites, and songs from two of his other plays, acknowledged the playwright’s presence in the theatre’s programming for most of its 45 years. A dizzying re-staging of the absurd railway-carriage ensemble scene from 2010’s The 39 Steps recalled a big success from more recent years.

The highlight, for me anyway, was an excerpt from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and special mention must be made of Barry Dorking as Lady Bracknell. Imposingly costumed, he relied not on the conventional over-the-top approach to his character but on carefully calibrated understatement, making a huge and memorable impact.

Ably hosted by Peter Hayden and Pip Laufiso, the show demonstrated the city’s considerable pool of dramatic talent and met the high standards that Fortune patrons have come to expect: excellent performances from all concerned; great direction from Jordan Dickson, Patrick Davies and Karen Elliot; and the splendid sets, costumes and lighting design that distinguish the work of Peter King, Maryanne Smyth and Stephen Kilroy respectively.

The only thing that can replace a professional theatre is a properly-resourced professional theatre, and prospects for that are unclear. The evening concluded, however, on a hopeful note with the announcement that, in 2019, Stage South will coordinate the effort of numerous small companies working, in different ways, to provide local audiences with high-quality productions.

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