Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

20/02/2009 - 14/03/2009

Production Details

Duets is a gloriously funny examination of love, relationships and why the grass is never greener!

The Play: 
Two actors play five sets of characters in five crucial moments – asking the questions:  Is the grass greener?  Would my life be better with or without this person? Duets is a fast, furious and hilarious tribute to mankind!

MEET:  The Characters:

Wendy & Jonathan as they meet for the first time on a date organized through a ‘singles’ advertisement.  Will they be a match made in heaven or is the only common factor their appalling bad taste?

JON:  "I used to always look for the vivacious ones, the young and beautiful ones.  But it never worked out.  So I thought I’d give you a try…"

Barrie & Janet as close as a gay man and faithful middle aged woman can be.  Or are they?  Barrie wants Janet to ‘display herself’ but Janet doesn’t want to meet any strange strangers.  Why should she? 

BARRIE:  "I hear a cruise is incredibly pleasant.  There’s a full programme of sports – and they feed you twenty-five times a day to make sure you can’t do any of them."

William & Diana preparing for a gala evening and nearing their twilight years, behind them the faded glamour of illustrious theatre careers.  What is more important – one last tour or more time with each other?

DIANA:  "How can you dress for such an important occasion in just five minutes is beyond me.  I’ve been getting reading since November.  And I was up at 6am just to check it through."

Bobby & Shelley are drunkenly divorcing while on holiday in Spain.  Drunk on exotic cocktails they discover they care while hating every thing about their spouse.

BOBBY:  "Have you considered lesbianism?"

Angela & Toby Angela is about to get married for a reckless third round.  Bobby, her brother, criticizes all of her choices.  He only wants the best for her – really. 

TOBY:  "Ah yes – the joy of being married.  You can finally get fat."

Duets opens February 20 – March 14
Tuesday 6pm
Wednesday – Saturday 7.30pm
Sunday 4pm   

The Actors:
Jeff Kingsford-Brown
Susan Curnow

Comic variety in couples

Review by Barbara Frame 23rd Feb 2009

Toby hasn’t ever got round to getting married, but this is his sister Angela’s third wedding. Guests are waiting, along with an ocean’s worth of shrimps and a cake ”the size of a caravan”. But Angela, overweight and overwrought, goes into a meltdown propelled by Nescafe, a vividly pink bra, a thunderstorm and a broken mirror — and Toby, at the end of his wits, turns to his bottle of Scotch.

The Wedding is the final (and my favourite) of the five short comedies that comprise Peter Quilter’s Duets.

In the others, a lonely-hearts-column meeting almost founders because of immobilising anxiety, Janet decides her future lies with flamboyantly gay Barrie, middle-aged actors trailing broken promises and crème brulee consider their profession’s brittle rewards and their own possible retirement, and a divorcing couple on a last fling in Torremolinos contemplate separate futures.

Although the couples are all very different, they are linked by themes of romantic attachment and the search for happiness, trepidation at crucial moments, and alcohol.

The first two pieces seemed weighted by excess dialogue (such as a mini history lesson on Queen Victoria’s attitude to lesbianism) and on Friday night things took a little while to warm up, but by the interval everything was bubbling. Actors Susan Curnow and Jeff Kingsford-Brown do an admirable job.

They are on stage for a total of more than two hours, playing characters who demand different styles, ages and accents, and carrying out quick on-stage clothing changes.

Directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, Duets will play at the Fortune until March 14, before touring in regional Otago and Southland.


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Our perpetual hunt for someone who will understand us

Review by Terry MacTavish 22nd Feb 2009

Duets, the Fortune’s first offering for the year, is a good-humoured and polished production: a series of five comic vignettes, taking a light-hearted look at relationships between the sexes. With cheery lines like ‘his belly is his own, but his hair is not’, it is unashamedly aimed at baby-boomers.

No doubt, in these times of financial hardship, we are particularly anxious to be reminded that what matters most is love, and not necessarily in a romantic form. Though the scenes all involve one man and one woman, the soulmate may turn out to be a gay (or straight) best friend, a sibling, or even an ex-spouse.

Five completely different situations prove a great boredom-breaker, even if there is no time to engage very deeply with any one pair of characters. This is Peter Quilter’s latest play, premiering all over the world this year, but it has a cosily old-fashioned feel – perhaps because it was written as homage to Broadway writer Neil Simon, whose trademark is a similar blend of humour and sentiment.

The set is only slightly rearranged for each new scene, and as pleasantly bland background, it would hold little interest, were it not for the dressing rooms visible behind. Here, between scenes, the actors change costume and character in view of the fascinated audience.

I appreciate the device of the dressing rooms, but I do wonder why Quilter didn’t choose to add the extra dimension of a relationship between the actors we get to watch in their off-stage moments – something like Noel Coward’s interlude, Red Peppers.

Director Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, who, in the past, has demonstrated her own versatility in multiple roles at the Fortune, has wisely chosen mature actors who bring confidence and skilful variety to their many characters.

Actors Susan Curnow and Jeff Kingsford-Brown achieve a comfortable rapport, and slip in and out of costume and accent with ease. The character of the gay employer may teeter on cliché, but in the following scene, as the American film star who has sunk to haemorrhoid commercials, Kingsford-Brown manages to be surprisingly touching in his tenderness for his elegant, ailing wife. Assured in all roles, Curnow is delicious as a tipsy woman, on one last holiday in Spain, with the husband she is cheerfully divorcing.

Both make the most, however, of the best scene, the last, the one we are of course eagerly anticipating, the Wedding. Though some early scenes involve a bit much agitated movement for its own sake, this final scene, played as high farce with feeling, is a lovely example of tightly directed and smoothly executed physical comedy. It also provides Maryanne Wright-Smyth (wardrobe) with the opportunity to excel herself with a cleverly disintegrating wedding gown.

If there’s any theme, other than our perpetual hunt for someone who will understand us, it is that finding this magical someone seems more likely once we lower our expectations. Accept that life is finite, that your friend is sadly heterosexual, or that you made a mistake in your original choice of partner and may do so again, and your chances of happiness actually improve. Whatever.

At least Duets makes for a happy evening at the theatre, with the bonus of a stunning performance by a red brassiere.


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