‘Spike Heels’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by September 14, 2014

‘Spike Heels’, written in 1990, was the first major play by Ohio born playwright, television writer and novelist, Theresa Rebeck. As well as writing such scripts for ‘L.A. Law’ and ‘NYPD Blue’, this playwright has gained a PhD in Victorian Melodramas. She has awards from ‘The Writers’ Guild’, ‘The Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award’ and the ‘Athena Film Festival Award for Excellence as a Playwright’.

All of Rebeck’s writings, including the crime novels and her three dozen plays, are about duplicity and debauched behaviour. Melville is to be congratulated on trying something as fresh and different on so many levels, as this play.

This 160-minute production can be seen at the Melville Theatre, on the corner of Stock Highway and Canning Highway, Melville. The season runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8.00, until 27th September. There is one matinee on Sunday 21st September at 2.00 pm.

 

In the First Act, the scene is Andrew’s luxury Boston apartment. Act 2 is Georgie’s flat immediately above Andrew’s. A beautiful set, (built by Ross Bertinshaw, Sarah Christiner, Barbara Lovell and Trevor Dhu) with plenty of angles on the walls, instead of the usual straight, boxy flats is used for both apartments.

The overall appearance is of French window-style front doors opening onto a balcony, with a view of the city in the background. The furnishings and props are of a high quality and include a settee and several side tables around the room.

With the room being changed to Georgie’s in the interval, a huge number of props were required, but Antoinette Favory has them chosen well, creating two very different rooms filled with items that reflect the resident’s character. Stage Manager Georgi Ivers and her assistant, Rachael Knight, smoothly carried out the interval changeover.

 

     There is a loud banging on Andrew’s apartment front door. On her way home from work, this is Latin American, working class girl, Georgie (Hope Devaney) has called in to see Andrew (Lee Walker), a professor of political philosophy, and her fastidious neighbour. Andrew has taken Georgie under his wing and is trying, like ‘Pygmalion’s’ Professor Higgins, to take her from the streets to a responsible secure life.

     It is apparent that she is in a filthy temper, and Andrew discovers it is because her belligerent boss, criminal defence lawyer, Edward (Julian Tubb) has not only made unwanted sexual advances, but also threatened to rape her. She feels that she must change her clothes, which she does in front of her mentor. Over wary Andrew is embarrassed by her behaviour, and he is furious with his long-time friend, lecherous Edward. It seems that Georgie is aroused by the normally passive Andrew’s anger, and so she tries futilely to seduce him. Georgie discovers (wrongly?) that Andrew suggested that Edward stalk her – possibly, to ensure Edward stops dating his ‘frigid’ fiancée, Lydia. Livid at being a pawn between the two men, coupled with Andrew’s tasteless comment, ‘I made you better than this,’ Georgie storms out.

     Next day, on his way to collect Georgie for a date, Edward calls to see befuddled Andrew. Just as Andrew is telling of his disgust at the way Georgie has been treated, she arrives. Andrew thinks she looks slutty. Minutes later, his modestly dressed fiancée Lydia (Kelly Belinda Hammond) arrives. Filled with jealousy, Lydia is furious. The trouble is about to really begin.

 

 The first ten minutes of this play must win the prize for most expletives in an opening scene, as Georgie’s real character is laid bare. However, Finley Award nominated director, Trevor Dhu, controls the scene tastefully. The magnificent acting of Hope Devaney, totally inhabits this, sad, lonely, frustrated, sexy, young woman; a confused woman who is desperate for love and a life away from the gutter.

The director has been brave choosing a cast with very little history and boldly giving them a chance. For Julian Tubb this is his very first stage appearance, and yet he handles Edward, the Teflon coated solicitor and letch, with absolute confidence. Lee Walker was perfect as the caring neighbour, who is frustrated with the way Georgie’s life is progressing. Returning to a major stage part, after a long break, Kelly Belinda Hammond gave a fine performance as the prudish, heartbroken fiancée who thinks she has been deserted. The direction was first-class, and the acting wonderfully assured.

The lighting design by Jeff Hansen was excellent, with some very good shafts of light and shadows creating wonderful atmosphere. Sadly, there were a couple of things I did not like; the light changes were far from subtle. For example, at the beginning of Act 2, Andrew is asleep on the sofa in a room lit by moonlight. He wakes and as he walks to the door, the room lights come on – how? This made one wonder where are the switches? And why did the actor not need to turn it on? When the front door is about to be opened, a door-shaped masked light comes on (a technique that was employed by Trevor at Harbour Theatre recently), why? The audience are intelligent and do not require prompts like this.

The soundscape was of very well chosen music, it was perfect for each of the situations that it was backing, but mainly unnecessary. In fact, the music was played at about twice the ideal volume, and because many of the musical grabs had singing involved, it rendered the dialogue that it was supposed to be enhancing, become almost inaudible. Two of my friends moved, during the performance, nearer to the front of the auditorium in order to catch the scene’s dialogue.

I do not like to discourage directors who are trying something new or exciting, but unfortunately, this did not quite work. Don’t be discouraged Trevor, theatre needs adventurous directors like you to progress.

This is a most enjoyable play with several good laughs, but it is mainly a complex love story, who will end up with who – if anyone? It is a play with little action, but plenty of clever dialogue and the reactions of strong personalities. Not a play that I enjoyed instantly, but next day it still had me thinking and it was then I realised that I did enjoy it. Great acting. Recommended.