Friday, 16 October 2015

Amity Dry presents 'Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life'

Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life, presented by Amity Dry
Barossa Arts and Convention Centre
reviewed September 30, 2015

Some people are mothers. Some people are wives. Some people, are both. Nonetheless, sometimes trying to juggle being both can mean that life becomes very complicated. Therefore, it is no surprise that singer/songwriter Amity Dry took up the chance to demonstrate this point, through the medium of musical theatre, namely, Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life, a musical about the ups and downs of motherhood and wifehood and how complicated this can sometimes be. The following review is of the show which was performed at Barossa Arts and Convention Centre as part of a tour around Australia, and Adelaide should feel very privileged that it was selected as a location to have this show performed in.

Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life follows the lives of four best friends, Kate, Bec, Jessie, and Lily, as they lament to each other about how complicated their life can be, with so much to think about and so much happening all at once. Each character has a different story, and each of these stories are revealed to the audience, as they each explain their complications to each other; it is almost like the audience are welcomed into their world, as they tell their stories. Although the actors do not directly address the audience, the stories that are told amongst characters are told in such a way as to allow the audience to see themselves in these stories, and be able to relate to at least one of the characters. It is an entertaining musical that is both funny and thought provoking, and one which is not afraid to tell the truth how it really is, how it can really be hard to juggle parenthood and relationships. The production has been produced around the world, in places such as New York and Norway, and it is very obvious to see why.

It is safe to say that it is a struggle to find fault in this production; all aspects fit together in a show which can only be described as sensational, successfully presenting a realistic view of just what it is like to be a mother and a wife, and have a complicated life.

As unexpected mother Kate, Amity Dry is brilliant. The way Dry conveys the difficulties and complications of unexpected pregnancies and the exhaustive nature of new parenting, is sublime. This is particularly evident in her solo song, "Go to Sleep", a song which demonstrates how Kate is becoming very tired and exhausted at trying to get her baby to fall asleep, and how Kate really does not know what to do.

Emma Bargery played newlywed 'Bridezilla' Jessie, an hilarious character who loves the prospect of marriage and renovating, until she realises that when it comes to house renovations, sometimes men don't always know the difference between two different colours of paint! Bargery is to be most commended for stepping in as the understudy for the Barossa show, at late notice. It's not always easy trying to learn new songs, dialogue and blocking at late notice, but Bargery made it seem she had been practicing for months, and one would never have guessed that Bargery was the understudy.

In the role of Bec, married mother of three young children, Nikki Aitken captures very well the emotions which come with having numerous young mischievous children, who can often be very hard to keep occupied, and hard to keep from hitting their siblings. Aitken presents this well in the funny scene where Bec is trying to have a conversation with other mothers, but her children are making too much noise for this to happen effectively.

A very difficult role to play, Susan Ferguson is suitably cast as troubled wife and mother of two, Lily. Throughout the musical, Lily experiences many intense and painful emotions, and it would not have been easy to portray this, but Ferguson does it superbly, in such a way to make the audience feel her pain, and even be brought to tears. In some scenes with Lily, the audience remain deadly silent, proving that Ferguson has presented her character effectively.
The musical takes places against a simplistic static set at the back of the stage, which resembles that of a house frame, and although very simplistic, this set, designed by David Lampard, is very effective. The frame contains small, tall shelves at both ends of the frame, which contain small props which the actors use throughout. This frame also has four large white pillars which are cleverly illuminated with coloured lighting at varying times in the production (lighting design by Daniel Barber), depending on what is happening on the stage. Also, there are three large spaces in the frame, where there is two large white windows and a large wooden green door with a fancy door frame surrounding it. These set pieces are on wheels, which allow for the actors to move them around to different places on the stage in such a way to smoothly change scene and location. Similarly, the primary set also comprises a small light coloured wooden table, with four different coloured metal chairs, red, green, blue and yellow, which are moved by the actors throughout, often as part of the choreography. What is also very clever is that the set is visible to the audience as soon as they walk into the theatre, and the title of the musical is displayed on the set in a very clever manner. More specifically, the title is made from children's clothing, a tablecloth, table pieces, and large coloured wooden alphabet blocks. When the actors first enter the stage, they take these items away, or even use them as part of their choreography. It is obvious therefore, that Lampard has given much time and consideration to the set, and how it would work most appropriately.

Costume design by Amity Dry also complements the set in that both the set and costumes have the same four solid colours: green, blue, red and yellow; each character has a different colour which they are associated with: Bec, red, Jessie, yellow, Kate, blue, Lily, green. While at some stages, the actors do not have any of these colours present on their costume, in most scenes, each actor has something on their costume which is of the same colour as the colour they are associated with ie a scarf, necklace, shirt etc. This is an incredibly interesting costume choice, which serves a purpose very well.

Special mention must also be made to stage manager Amanda Rowe, for ensuring that each set piece was in the right place at the right time, and making sure that actors do not miss their cues. This is of most importance in a show such as this,  as most scenes rely on actors moving set pieces and ensuring they are on cue, so that scene changes are smooth and do not leave the audience waiting and losing focus. Each scene change was smooth, and each prop in its right place at the right time, so Rowe is to be most commended. 

Finally, no great musical would be complete without a live orchestra. Although in this production it is not visible, they definitely deserve a mention and should not be forgotten. Under the direction of Mark Simeon Ferguson, the four piece orchestra are obviously very well rehearsed; the musicians play so well, and the volume is appropriate; it does not drown out the singing, there is an appropriate balance of orchestra volume and singing volume. What is also particularly interesting is how such sound can be made with only four musicians.

Nobody promised that life as a mother and/or a wife would be perfect; that is truly an unrealistic expectation, there are always complications. However, there is one thing which can be described as perfect, and that is Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life itself. This musical truly is one which has the ability to make people laugh, cry, smile and one which reveals what life can truly be like sometimes for mothers and wives. So, if you are, or have ever been, a wife, a mother, or even both, or even if you are a husband, father, or even just a male, this show is one show you sure don't want to miss. Maybe there really is far more to being a parent than people realise!          

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