Girls’ Night Out // Tugun Theatre

Review By Lucy Martin

From the moment you entered Tugun Theatre, the mood for ‘Girl’s Night Out’ was set! From the fabulous feather boa on the lovely lady greeting people in the foyer, to the pin boards laced with stills from the show along with cast photos and introductions as you walk into the hall.Sitting down you were greeted to a program and some ‘bridesmaid’ headbands to really get into the ‘Hens Night’ party mood.

‘Girls’ Night Out’, written by Dave Simpson, follows the storyline of a group of women celebrating the last night of ‘single’ life for the bride-to-be, Jane, who is heavily pregnant and holding in a well kept (not for long) secret. She celebrates alongside her ‘doesn’t hold her liquor well’ sister Sara, her Aunty Ivy (who also has a secret sure to get the party started) and her friend Nicola who is the budding daughter-in-law of dear Aunt Ivy.

The story pans out to follow alongside the story of the 4 men of the show we see later become the hens night ‘entertainment’, whose moves end up hitting a little closer to home than some of the ladies would like. The boys consist of new to the stage and ‘not so boring’ Tony (Antonio), the loveable and confident (*closet) Robbie, the cocky (in more ways than one) yet dangerous Darren and the quiet yet deep Phil who knows more about women than the boys are yet to know.

The show commences with an appearance from the MC, played by Samantha McClurg, who was also the Assistant Director for this production, with a comedic take on the usual pre-show instructions about no photography etc. with some help from cast members. Loved this concept, although would love to see this sped up a little to raise the momentum before curtains up!

The directing of the show by the lovely Rianna Hartney-Smith was simple yet effective. I loved the opening scene in front of the curtain, giving the illusion of Tony being upstairs in his bedroom, it was a strong start to the show. The use of two set pieces, the living room and the men’s dressing room, side by stage on the stage worked surprisingly well considering how close proximity they were. The entrances and exits from these scenes were also really well blocked, well done Rianna.

I do have to mention the water spray at the conclusion of Phil’s solo tease was extremely jarring. As an audience member who got completely drenched, it was very off putting to have to then sit through the remainder of the show very uncomfortably. I can appreciate the comedic aspect of what that moment could be, so perhaps a spray bottle or less water put in the bottle next time, would still give the same affect without the audience being drawn away from the story.

The set design and build by Chris Hawkins, David Neumann and crew really painted each scene beautifully for us to be brought into each setting. The coloured flats along stage right really brought the stage to life and created a party ‘vibe’ from the get go. Although, the curtain closes for set changes felt a little clunky and really affected the pace of the show, a special mention to the set design and execution of the final scene in the bar – the streamer backdrop and bar tables, it really felt like we were a part of the hens party! Woo!

The lighting design for this production by Charlie Graham and Luke Jones was great overall. The ‘living room’ lighting felt a little cold but was quickly forgotten once we got towards the middle and end of the show with each scene building in strength as the story unfolded. I especially loved the groovy 70’s styled flower lighting that was projected onto the wall in Act 2, this really elevated the scene and the mood. A nod to Lucas Godwin on the operating of sound and lighting throughout the show, it was a smooth and solid performance. Sound design by Luke Jones, Rianna Hartney-Smith and Samantha McClurg was also great. Would love to have had the sound up a little in the ‘party’ moments to elevate those and a quick mention to the smoke alarm batteries that may need changing as the constant beeping was quite distracting!

Costuming by Trish Nissen was simple and effective. The choices for each character really fit nicely with the narrative, especially the 4 leading ladies. I particularly LOVED Samantha McClurg’s outfit as the MC. Along with her glitzy styled captain hat, she really drew us in! Choreography by Tracey Lord and Peta Schulz was effective in it’s simplicity and well suited to the performer’s levels. The group numbers from the boys were well aesthetically planned out and it was nice to see them pushing out of their comfort zones here. Perhaps a few nerves here and there, which did affect the landing of some of these numbers, but overall a job well done. It’s not everyday you get cast in a play where you end up taking your clothes off and grinding the floor!

Now to the party animals!

Tanya McGill gave us a beautifully layered Aunty Ivy. Her character was strong and funny but also showed a sense of sensitivity and moments of feeling unsettled. Tanya really gave us the mother hen moments within this group of girls, along with having her moments of reflection inwards on her own inner war. A special mention to her moment of finding out that her real love had been not so real after all, with some unexpected news that she pretends to not feel the weight of. It was a convincing moment of heartache that was well received.

Cassie Baan as Jane was joyful and hilarious. Her comedic timing, ability to light up the stage and choice of mannerisms for this particular character really showed a performer comfortable on the stage. A couple of my favourite moments from Jane was her meltdown on the couch, and her moment of reeling after having a conversation with Phil who in fact ‘could not be the father’. Great to watch.

Jay-Louise Clark as Sara was a standout actor in this production. Her commitment to the character and delivery of each line was strong and believable. You always looked forward to hearing what she had to say along the journey of this story. It’s always so refreshing to be able to trust an actor/actress – and you definitely have that with Jay-Louise. Well done on a very solid performance.

Emma Andrews as Nicola gave us an insight into a woman who is bound by her controlling nature. She really gave off ‘Monica’ from Friends vibes and it was nice to watch her character unravel as the story went along. Although some lines were lost to the back or a lack of projection, it was a lovely performance.

Now to the ‘entertainment’, who couldn’t seem to keep their pants on!

Jack Willing as Tony, or the virgin to the stage ‘Antonio’, has a lot of potential as a budding actor. Although some moments didn’t quite land with audience due to losing the line, he really carried the inner monologue’s and frustrations of his character and took us for the ride. The solo tease he gave us at the end of the show was a definite standout. So well done to the rookie of the group!

Luke Jones was the confident and loveable Robbie. A seasoned performer and solid actor who built the layers of his characters story well. And who knew he could dance so effortlessly in a pair of heeled boots? Great work!

Tyler Leskiw as ‘Dangerous Darren’ was the man we loved to hate. With dildo in hand he really sold this toxic masculine character to be one who was really all talk and no walk. I was impressed to watch him unfold this character to a moment of confusion and uncertainty over his and Robbie’s relationship, it was nice to see a different side of his acting ability. A special mention to his solo tease which had an impressive strength shown by the ease of his gymnast styled moves.

And last but not least, Phil, played by Brock Honnery. Brock definitely settled into this character throughout the show as he seemed nervous for the first few scenes. His character Phil was confident in himself and his challenging of the boys which was well portrayed by Honnery. His delivery in the scene where he educates the boys on the female anatomy via a sketch, really took the cake for his great moments.

Special mention to the two ensemble members who we sadly didn’t get to see much of at all but kudos to creating those moments of rounding out the story and scene when you did come onto the stage.

Loved the idea of the mid-show entertainment although it did feel a little awkward. I wasn’t sure if that was because of a set change happening or not but perhaps getting those particular cast members to make something of drawing the raffle or even the MC doing so, might have helped keep the mood of the show up during that break. Although when the winner of the raffle was drawn and the number called was 69, that certainly helped!

I would love to encourage this theatre to be mindful when considering their chosen shows as to what message the story and script sends or how they can adapt their rendition of it to create positive change within social narratives. For example in this show we see a lot of the ‘stereotyping’ of men’s behaviour, we get a look at some toxic masculine energy which can be used within a comedy piece to entertain but as it is then layered on top of how that translates and affects women, I think this is where we could potentially tread more carefully or encourage a positive message for the future ahead.

Overall it was a cohesive show from all the creatives and cast and sure was a girls’ night out, FULL of surprises! Bravo!

Until next time.

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