Anywhere Theatre Festival celebrates art and artists, and their impact on audiences by activating ordinary and often extraordinary spaces, staging performances anywhere but in theatres.
Presented by Sunshine Coast company 3bCreative in a room on a purpose-built stage, complete with makeshift wings and the audience seated in rows of chairs, Wilde Life is perhaps an unusual inclusion in this year’s festival.
Walking into Bloomhill Cancer Care, renowned for its whole-hearted staff and beautiful natural bushland setting, the expectation – set high due to well-honed and widely distributed marketing material – was partially met by smiling eyes behind a terrific bar setup outside, the entire enclosed verandah decorated with calla lilies and fairy lights. With the exterior atmosphere established, we assumed the show would be delivered in the same space, or beyond, in the gardens. What the production lacks in imagination, in terms of its staging, is made up for by its costumes, beautifully designed and crafted, boasting peacock plumage and Victorian era shapes and textures that perfectly support the roles, created to highlight the similarities between high society and the natural behaviour of birds.
An outstanding performance by Alana Grimley (Juvenile Female) is reminiscent of some of the best Cagebirds never seen by so many on the Sunshine Coast, a company of senior drama students at my alma mater in the 1990s! Even without being familiar with that seminal piece, the posturing and preening of the characters in Wilde Life will make perfect sense to audiences. If not, there are always the program notes, which explain the parallel behaviour of the species and those well bred ladies and gents of the upper classes, written about so wittily by Oscar Wilde.
Joining Grimley on stage to share excerpts from Wilde’s work are Helen Duffy (Breeding Hen), Libby Glasson (Juvenile Male – a breeches role), Joy Marshall (Mature Hen), Jody Collie (Mature Cock) and Kennedy Fox (Jack Dawe). Overly indulgent and slightly insecure narration from Fox as lecturer/emcee, slows the pace and for me the show feels longer than its 70 minutes, but for others it appears to be highly amusing and engaging at every moment. Such is the broad appeal of live theatre comprising solid source material and committed performances. It’s an older audience on opening night, generous with their laughter and applause, and visibly enjoying the old-school delivery. Some excellent scene work, particularly in excerpts from The Importance of Being Earnest, provided some of the more entertaining moments from Grimley, Duffy, Glasson, Marshall and Collie.
Created by Anne Grant and Julie Bray, and directed by Grant with musical direction by Stephen Cronin, Wilde Life is a more traditional production, delivered in a more traditional setting, but if you love the wit and flourish of The Irish Peacock, you’ll enjoy this offer immensely.
Wilde Life was seen on Friday May 11 at 7:30pm.
Dates: May 11 & 12, 18 & 19 at 7:30pm and May 19 at 2pm
Where: Bloomhill Centre, 58 Ballinger Road, Buderim
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward