‘Jigsaws’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by February 7, 2015

‘Jigsaws’ is light-hearted comedy, written in 1988 by journalist / teacher, Jennifer Rogers. It was after working in Hong Kong, America, Australia, and Nigeria, that Rogers wrote ‘Jigsaws’ her first play. This very funny observation of family life looks at three generations of women at a Christmas gathering. It was first performed in Perth at the ‘Hole in the Wall Theatre’ in Leederville almost two decades ago, but is still as fresh and relevant today.

The Saturday, 7th February’s performance is being devoted to the Kenyan charity, Nakuru Hope‘s (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) Gabriel’s Orphanage which, although it opened only 3 months ago, is already full with abandoned and orphaned children, along with many rape and assault victims. The orphanage is generally well equipped, but still has no proper drinking water.

This quality production can be seen at the Old Mill Theatre, corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road in South Perth. The two and a half hour shows are nightly at 8.00 pm until Saturday 21st February. There is one matinee on Sunday 15th.

 

The curtains open to reveal another excellent set. Designed by Adam Salathiel and built by Adam, Ben Davis and Tim Prosser it is of an old fashioned, Perth sitting room at Christmas 1987.

The walls are regency striped wallpaper, and a couple of oak Welsh dressers further adorn the surrounds. A decorated Christmas tree stands in front of the window. The view from the window was extremely realistic (yet another Tim Prosser masterpiece) and at one stage in the play, there was even a downpour of rain against the window.

In the second Act, all of the walls were decorated a trendier, light rust colour; the flock settee replaced with a buttoned leather couch. How did every wall change colour? This must have been a massive task for stage managers Cally Zanik and Daniel Madgwick.

The sound and lighting design were by Kath Carney (the well known spelling mistake – ‘in’ joke). Graeme Johnson helped with the setup, rigging and operated the sound. Kath’s lighting was outstanding; with soft illumination generally and the occasional dramatic spotlight or beam of early morning sun streaming through the gap between the curtains.

 

       We join a family Christmas reunion, and the spirit of Christmas is definitely missing. Pedantic perfectionist, Monica (Danni Close) is whinging about all of the extra work that she has to do, looking after her elderly Grandmother, Emma (Beryl Francis), although no one has actually asked her to do it.

       Next to an armchair, where her easygoing, non-house-proud, slightly supercilious sister, Alex (Hayley Currie, giving a very strong first acting performance) has been sitting, Monica spots a coffee stain on the carpet. In seconds, Monica has her rubber gloves on and is down scrubbing.

       Auntie Pat (Tracy Bolton) enters the room and catches the end of Alex’s ‘phone call. Pat drags from Alex that whilst living in Melbourne, she has moved into a flat with a divorced doctor. For the sake of all concerned – and Christmas spirit, Pat begs Alex not to tell her matriarchal mother, Sylvia (Judi Johnson) who seems to have quite a few chips on her shoulder, permanently.

       We can see the love and appreciation in the group; their problems with their miserable husbands, and how the years have seen them drift apart. Each one seems to be heading for disaster; however, will the strength of their blood ties hold them together?

 

 

Why let a sensitive sitting dog lie when things NEED to be discussed and pointed out? Forget sensitivities or family bonds; just let the feelings flow forth. Do these relatives REALLY want to bring about an equitable agreement?

Not surprisingly, the dedication of the cast is reflected in the distance that they have had to travel, and with some of the cast coming from Mandurah for rehearsals and shows. This demonstrates their enthusiasm and the faith that they have in the well-respected director, Adam Salathiel. Adam, who often goes under the nickname Mut Ley, is a building surveyor by day and thespian by night. The whole cast have years of experience and it shows in the wonderful chemistry between the actors.

Christmas dinner and the ‘relaxation period’ afterwards can be one of the most stressful periods of the year, and in this superbly written dialogue, I am sure that many couples will have nudged each other during the performance, as though to say ‘do you recognise the situation?’ or ‘that is you!’. This play shows us how the square peg does not fit the round hole, or in a Jigsaw, there is always that odd piece that does not quite fit in. You will squirm slightly as you recognise yourself as one of the characters.

Beryl Francis first played the part of Emma about a decade ago – With her husband, Ian, directing. Beryl’s monologue was a real tissue job. Plenty of laughs and gasps as the family relationships unfurled.

A professional show in all aspects. Strongly recommended.