The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Production of Macbeth

The Woolshed Theatre, South Waikato

03/09/2022 - 17/09/2022

Production Details

Created by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr.
Directed by David Moore

Te Awamutu Light Operatic Society (TALOS) is proud to present its second production of 2022. After the success of Tell Me A Story, the focus has shifted to a comic play that is sure to entertain a wide range of audiences, directed by David Moore.

The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society ladies are presenting a startlingly original production of Macbeth as their entry which they hope will see them head to the regional finals. Their fate rests in the hands of judge Mr George Peach (Kerrin Carr) who is on hand to witness most of the performance.

Ably headed by Mrs Reece (Beverley Pullon), the Society navigates numerous obstacles including Hilda Bristow getting lost, producer Mr Plummer’s (Ian Wright) frequent stress-related outbursts and Thelma’s (Tracy Ellis) dramatic personality clash with the other cast members to perform a unique production which may well leave Shakespeare or indeed any playwright spinning in their grave.

The Woolshed Theatre – Mahoe Street, Te Awamutu
3 to 17 September 2022
Wed-Sat, 7pm
Sun, 1.30pm

Kerrin Carr – George Peach
Beverley Pullon – Mrs Reece (Lady Macduff and Doctor)
Tracy Ellis – Thelma (Macbeth and Ross)
Sean Dwyer – Henry (Lady Macbeth and 8 Kings)
Julie Gray – Minnie (Banquo, Lady Macduff’s son)
Ian Wright – Plummer
Stef Gibson-Muir – Dawn (1st Witch, Porter, 2nd Murderer, Duncan, Fleance)
Catherine Wilde – Felicity (2nd Witch, Seyton, 1st Murderer, Malcolm, Gentlewoman)
Tania Omundsen – Kate (3rd Witch, Macduff, Messenger)

Stage Manager – Rowan Miller
Stage Crew – Malika Houghton-Wright, Ti McConnachie, Emma Forsyth, David Gray, Jaime Bayley
Wardrobe – Fiona Miller (lead), Marcia Bayley
Choreographer – Julie Gray
Lighting – Samson Crowhurst
Sound – Colin Morley, Fiona Cowan
Prompt – Kevin Lawrence
Set Construction – Jim Henderson.

Designed by Walter Zerlin Jr and Gerald Tagg.

Presented in association with Play Bureau (scripts from Samuel French).

Theatre ,

1hr 40

Silly, fun, and almost self-aware enough to work

Review by D.A. Taylor 06th Sep 2022

The title of this show, The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society Production of Macbeth (TFAHETGDSPoM), should reveal all you need to know about the latest production by Te Awamutu Light Operatic Society (TALOS).

Farndale is a fictional village putting forward a “startlingly original” production of the Scottish Play that they hope will be their ticket to the finals of some theatrical competition. Farndale is presented both in the detailed meta-programme and in the play as an out-of-touch English town that does its jolly best to put on a rousing show against all odds and matters of taste. (Their back catalogue allegedly includes Brokeback Mountain – On Ice, Six Angry Women Jurors, and Miserable Les.) Their production of MacBeth, then, falls squarely in this camp of ‘delightfully bad’. Naturally, William Shakespeare’s classic play of ambition and fate gets the comedic treatment and made accessible by layering it under the guise of an amateur dramatic production where things go wrong.

Farces like TFAHETGDSPoM work when they are big. Not necessarily big in production value – certainly not in fictional Farndale – but frequently in character, style, and mishaps. Miscommunications and misunderstandings that could easily be rectified in person become sources of entertaining confusion. Characters become improbable caricatures working together in a group that would have long since imploded if it weren’t required by the contrivances of the plot that they hold together. Characterisations are so over the top that they can only be laughed at.

It makes sense, then, that the conceit of a play-within-a-play works so well for the farce genre. Some shows do this superbly well, like Noises Off, but the idea has received special attention in the last few years after The Play That Goes Wrong reinvigorated the concept and made it to the Royal Variety Performance in 2015 as a result. We’re typically fed just enough knowledge about how things should go for a production. Naturally, of course, things don’t. And when we’re given a glimpse at how (badly) things are going backstage – and then contrasting that with the onstage experience – we get two different experiences that are building towards a crashing finale. If you’re lucky, you’ll also see plenty of play between “actors” and “characters”. A good “actor” might be terrible once they’re in “character.” Egos will probably get in the way. A laughably shy “actor” might stay that way on stage and their shyness played for comic effect, for example. This all adds colour to the show, and also shows an actor’s – and director’s – skill.

You really don’t need to have seen MacBeth to understand TFAHETGDSPoM. You only need to recognise that things aren’t going to plan, and that community theatre is often economically produced, well-meaning, and just a bit slap-dash. As an experience, TFAHETGDSPoM plays into some territory familiar to anyone who’s seen an earnestly produced show by a community theatre. There are chuckles to be found at the staples of the local theatre house, the jam raffle that takes place at half time, flubbed lines and discount sets, injured actors (the show must go on, after all) and discount costumes. TALOS has done a good job of embodying these elements, bringing them to life with an energetic cast enthusiastic about putting on an entertaining night of rapid-fire silliness. It’s all part of the charm of a local show.

There is unfortunately much that can be improved upon, and only some of this is due to the cast and direction. The script originally appeared in 1976 (but was updated in the 80s), and while some references have clearly been changed to reflect the Waikato, much of it feels like it should have stayed in the last century. At the same time, many of the accents and references have not made the leap across time zones and split the difference between a UK village and Te Awamutu, creating an odd blend of identities that mean you have to keep adjusting your internal compass to make sense of what you’re watching. While some accents, then, are well-intentioned, they also come across as entirely the wrong decision. Far better to hang the script and embrace Te Awamutu, surely.

At times, TFAHETGDSPoM reads – and sounds – like a bawdy Carry On stage play with plenty of low-hanging jokes. While some of the gags about community archetypes or theatrical mistakes are worth a giggle, TFAHETGDSPoM reaches a bizarre low when it expects us to break out in uproarious laughter at the sight of a man wearing a dress and adjusting his bra. Today, that’s just not good enough – certainly if you want to cultivate a community that supports an inclusive theatre.

To be fair, Sean Dwyer – who “plays” Henry the set builder, who is foisted into the role of Lady MacBeth at the last second – plays his dress-bound role with just enough tact to emphasise Henry’s resistance to being on stage, not the cross-dressing element. (Another drag role is less sensitively approached. It’s not malicious, but it is dated.) Dwyer is also the strongest in the ensemble in both consistency, clarity and characterisation. While his “character”/“actor” role is more or less consistent (after all, he’s not an “actor”), other “actor”/“characters” on the stage are delivered in a way that makes them more or less interchangeable.

Despite some obvious traits (such-and-such is accident prone; another is short-sighted), the characters all feel quite one-note. Even with an extensive audio set-up, with microphones visible in front of and above the set, much is lost due to a lack of projection or enunciation. (The older patrons sitting next to me commented at half time that it was a shame they couldn’t understand what was happening.) Jokes needed more room – or more refined timing – to get the value out of them. I can’t help but feel that the show could have benefited from both more discipline and refinement to make the comedy work harder, and to move beyond the singular joke of “Oopsie”.

But the Te Awamutu community came together and enjoyed their show. Regardless of any weaknesses I can point out, I can’t fault their enthusiasm. They welcomed their friends and family on a rainy Saturday night, and celebrated a fun show put together with shoestrings and cardboard prop fountains. It’s silly, fun, and almost self-aware enough to work.


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