STiFF

26 October – 4 November, Waipukurau Little Theatre
Written by April Phillips and directed by Simon Law

Three steps up to the lobby, through the door to the welcoming front of house and a coffin. Our seats wait patiently as I quickly take in the full house, the happy murmur of friends as they gather and the serene, austere dignified set … and a coffin. Another coffin. Oh yes, I have this pegged. We’re shuffling off mortal coils here, this was going to be a farce set around a family’s bereavement, this was a sad STIFF not a naughty STIFF.

And of course I was wrong. Very wrong. Naughty STIFF all the way, naughty not nasty, naughty and funny.

Last night the Little Theatre rocked with laughter as line after line delivered, after the looks, the physical gestures, the perfect costumes, hilarious accents and the inferences hit their comedic marks.

Everyone will have taken away with them their favourite bits, let me talk about mine. My all-out top-of-the-pops was the dead body bit. I loved the cadaver. I’ve never said those four words in a sentence before. He was outstanding, the scene was outstanding. Picture this if you will. Body in tidy undies and shirt dragged on stage and lumped onto a table, clever work with a red tablecloth and an apparently naked and very dead Judge Beaton (Jimmy Fisher) lies on the slab awaiting embalming. Resident dominatrix, the gorgeous Roxanne (Lucy Mavin) has ‘read a book’ and proceeds with surgeon-like efficiency to plug holes. She plugs brilliantly. Her partners in crime are there to support, gasp and advise. It’s masterful teamwork without even the tiniest glimpse of laughter or losing character – and certainly no ‘corpsing’. Respect. I can only imagine the rehearsals for this scene. Hilarious.

All through the play there were stand-out moments for me. Tony Ironsides as the lawyer sets the adventure in motion. His confusion and incredulity as his character tries to comprehend the gritty, grubby, reality of Angel Delight (Madeleine Howard). The dour, hard-done-by Robert Swipe’s  character (Rob Blamires) is given – both by the director (Simon Laws) and the script – occasional windows of comedy, giving rein to the actors comedic talent.

Sherry (Mary Flemmer) the ditsy call girl was a delight. Her face and character shone with innocence and the singing was an audience hit.

And let’s not forget the eyes between Angel Delight the unlikely activist and Mrs Beaton. Effective lighting, direction and sustained eye movement received well-deserved laughter and as for Delilah (John Chalmers), she was a show-stealer, a master class in timing and comedy.

Curtain call gave the audience opportunity to whoop their appreciation and as I left the building I overheard one bloke say to another bloke, “I loved that!” Supermarket chat the next day confirmed the above and all that’s left is for me to say, “The people have spoken.”

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