Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind recently had a successful run at
the Drama Theatre at
Opera House, playing from 14 October to 18 November 2006. With
convincing performances and some amusing one-liners, the play is at
once wonderfully comic and darkly troubling. While Woman in Mind
incorporates humour, there are enough emotional underpinnings to tug at the
heartstrings and get the audience thinking.
follows 48 hours in the life of the middle-aged Susan (Noni
Hazlehurst), a vicar’s wife with one son, Rick (Richard Pyros).
Woman in Mind opens with Susan unconscious – after knocking
herself out with a rake – and being tended to by her accident-prone
doctor Bill (Andrew McFarlane).
becomes clear that Susan has not been quite “with it”. In fact, she
has increasingly been fantasising about a perfect family full of
make-believe characters that bear little resemblance to their
real-life counterparts. Her glamorous and good-looking imaginary
husband Andy (John Adam) is at odds with Susan’s real-life
husband Gerald, who is dull and rather pompous. In contrast to
Andy’s romantic nature (“I love you more than words could ever
say”), Gerald complains that his wife is lazy, while absorbing
himself in writing a history of his parish.
Susan’s fantasy she is the writer, but of best-selling novels. Her
imaginary daughter Lucy
(Sophie Ross) is adoring and supportive, telling Susan “I
think you are the most marvellous person ever” and treating her as a
confidant rather than a mother: “I’ll always tell you everything
first”. In stark contrast is Susan’s real-life son Rick, who has
joined a religious sect that forbids him from speaking to his
parents. Finally, her suave and protective dream brother, Tony (Mark
Owen-Taylor) bears little resemblance to Susan’s ditzy and
critical sister-in-law Muriel. As if this isn’t enough, the fantasy
family also has a maid, a tennis court and a swimming pool.
when Rick returns home, telling Susan that he has married and is
moving to Thailand with his new wife, who is a stranger to the rest
of the family. As tension builds among her real-life relatives,
Susan’s tormented mind becomes a battlefield between her two lives
as she struggles to hold onto reality. As the play continues,
Susan’s mental state deteriorates, leading to a dramatic closing
that brings out the actor's best.
Woman in Mind is about the power of the mind and the instability of
perception. The key to the play is in its clever vision of heaven
and hell on earth, as shown through Susan’s eyes. Some may feel
that this production is dealing with the very human condition of not
being satisfied with what one has, seeing the bad in people rather
than the good, and the inability to cope with reality. The clever
part of the whole production is that it allows the audience to
interpret things how they want.
If you fancy
something a little different from the usual, Woman in Mind is
Article Review written by Chrissy Layton,
AusNotebook Music & Creative
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