‘Snakes and Ladders’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by March 2, 2017

‘Snakes and Ladders’ is a humorous, yet deeply moving drama, set around an Australian family. An Adelaide book editor and playwright, Tony Moore, wrote this riveting tale about 4 years ago. Moore has written more than a dozen plays and specialist advice notes for actors and directors.

This 2-hour show can be seen at KADS Theatre, Barber Street, Kalamunda each Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evening at 8.00 pm until Saturday 4th March.

 

The scene is that of an older person’s living room. The design by Geoffrey Rumsey is excellent. It has all of the signs of a genuinely ‘lived-in’ room, with moquette chairs, velvet settee, a shag pile rug, and standard lamp. Great props by Anita Bound, the little touches bring the scene to life.

Stage manager Lesley Broughton had each minor scene change well planned.

Stephen Marr’s lighting design was particularly good. Stephen had a well-balanced blend of blue and yellow lights, capturing the ‘3 in the morning’ mood. Instead of just flooding the room with soft light for day scenes, he still thought hard about the effect that he wanted.

The sound design was by Lindsay Goodwin, crisp and flawless. The impeccable tech operators were Andre Du Prees and Linda Redman.

 

It is the current day in Charlie’s living room.

       Two elderly, retired sisters now share a house together; they are a retired, ‘maiden’ English teacher, Emily (Julie Holmshaw) and her sibling is Charlotte, known affectionately as ‘Charlie’ (Karin Staflund). The sisters are enjoying a quiet Sunday evening at home with a glass or two of wine, reading the latest ‘Aga saga’, and brawling over the cryptic crossword. 

      Widowed Charlie has spent most of her married life bringing up her daughter, Beth (Jennifer McGrath) who arrives, breaking the peace. She has left her husband and is looking for maternal reassurance. The family has always been close, but Beth starts asking too many uncomfortable questions about her relatives.

 

The Stirling Players presented a carefully abbreviated version of this play about three years ago, as part of a trilogy. Karin Staflund directed that play, with one of the actors in the enjoyable, original production being Christine Ellis. Chris has directed this full version.

This ‘complete’ production was much more satisfying than the previous shortened play, as it allowed the full depth of the characters, and the complex chemistry between the relatives to develop.

The three, highly competent actors are all wonderful. Their rich voice projection and enunciation is well above average. The play has very funny passages, then instants of friction that can be seen in any family group, along with a few sad moments. The director has used the physical spacing between the actors well, grouping them or separating them for just the right amount of tension or pathos. In the wrong hands, this play could easily have become too sugary and have lost the tenderness. Beautiful portrayals of the very different family members.

This is a cleverly structured play, with well-observed characters, soundly acted and perfectly presented. Try to catch it.