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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Scarlet O'Hara at the Crimson Parrot

In 2005 David Williamson announced his retirement from writing plays. Three years on and he has recovered somewhat, and has started to write plays again.

His latest offering is Scarlet O'Hara at the Crimson Parrot . He probably should have stayed in retirement.

Yesterday we attended Scarlet at the Playhouse.

The plotline is disappointingly predictable, although Williamson tries to make a joke about that, and maybe he is sending up the classic movies that are referenced regularly throughout the show. The characters are stereotypical: Scarlet's mother is the cliche of the manipulative monster mother, and in the restaurant we find the flighty kitchen slut, mediterranean gigolo cook and old gay dishwasher. Although, when we saw it the old gay dishwasher was replaced by a young gay dishwasher, as Bob Hornery was unwell and not able to appear in the part.

So why did I still enjoy the show - one word O'Connor. Although she has appeared in many shows and movies, we first became aware of her in the MTC production of Bombshells. In Scarlet O'Connor provides a bravura central performance (which recalls the best of Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett). She trips, stumbles, fumbles, falls and wisecracks her way into the audience's collective heart.

O'Connor's character is the Scarlet of the title - the explanation of the name is that her mother was a Gone with the Wind fan. Scarlet is a 36 year old waitress, who lives with her mother , has no boyfriend, and is a klutz at work and consequently on her "final - final" warning. She compensates by escaping into a fantasy world of movie classics - Casablanca , Gone with the Wind , Tarzan and his Mate , Wizard of Oz , Robin Hood, Anna Karenina . Clips from the films are shown on a large backdrop screen, with O'Connor often segueing into the heroine roles as the scenes progress - to great comic effect. On the stage she lip-synchs the lines and songs from the films. The leading men from the films ( Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Errol Flynn) are sometimes played by Scarlet's two romantic interests from the play - her boss, chef Steve and Allan the restaurant client.

The publicity photo with Scarlet dreaming of Bogie

I am in two minds about the stage design. Its centre is the large, gleaming, stainless steel, restaurant kitchen, which moves silently in either direction to reveal Scarlet and her mother's lounge room on one side and part of the restaurant on the other. My problem with it is that some of the railings for the kitchen obstructed part of the screen and was consequently distracting.


A good night out at the theatre - irrespective of the quality of the play, O'Connor always provides a memorable performance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have to disagree with your comments regarding the quality of the play as I found it thoroughly amusing and topical - and the audience on Saturday night likewise enjoyed the play. If the characters appeared to be stereotypes this is probably because they are accurate: a lot of kitchens have the same kinds of characters as portrayed in the play; and likewise there are many mothers and daughters similar to Scarlett and her mother. I agree, though, that the hanging lights from the kitchen set obscured the screen.