Review: Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful? (Fernerkle / Jordy Shea Theatrical)

jordysheaVenue: Sydney Theatre School (Chippendale NSW), Dec 3 – 14, 2014
Writer: Malcolm Frawley
Director: Malcolm Frawley
Cast: Josephine Waller, Stephen Bracken, Sarah Westhoff, Lauren Maddever, Genevieve Jarrett, Eleni Panayi, Emma Medbury, Demitra Sealy, Benjamin Hanly, Bass Hathaway, Claire Gandy, Ellis Neil, Nick Logan, Robert Carne

Theatre review
The play begins the day before Tegan and Silas are to wed, but Tegan quickly initiates a flashback to show us how the young couple had met and their subsequent journey towards matrimony. There is nothing extraordinary about their love story, in fact things are astonishingly plain. In an early scene, maid of honour Chloe mentions taking ecstasy in a club, but Tegan promptly reminds her that this version of events is to be revised for polite public consumption, indicating a tale that might be embellished and imaginary, but is sorely lacking in authenticity and truth.

Malcolm Frawley’s script and direction is strangely reminiscent of pantomime, yet it attempts to deal with adult subject matter. There is a lot of interest in sexuality and fidelity, although those themes are never explored with any depth or originality, and words like “slut” are used liberally presumable to criticize female sexual behaviour (or maybe just for comic effect). The lovebirds go through some incredibly trivial tensions in their relationship, but we are never too concerned because their story’s happy ending had already been revealed in the play’s introduction.

Leading lady Josie Waller holds the production together with excellent conviction, but is unable to elevate the role beyond something quite surface and disappointingly unintelligent. Stephen Bracken is the handsome Silas, but the play presents him with no challenge and few lines, often requiring him only to look bewildered and worried. Lauren Maddever has the unenviable task of playing Sophie, a young woman who has to subject herself to a series of makeovers in order to rid herself of her idiosyncratic appearance, as though turning into one of the crowd would deliver her from unhappiness. Bass Hathaway plays a series of characters, leaving a strong impression with his comedic abilities. In the role of Kelvin, he is genuinely funny playing a love struck young man hypnotised by the woman of his dreams.

It is disconcerting that Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?‘s archaic notions of gender roles are central to its plot and narratives. There is also an immaturity on many fronts that makes the production feel underdeveloped and unstudied, even though it is obviously put together with earnestness. Like Sophie, artists can sometimes be derivative in their approach. The show takes the form of something familiar, and while it is not realistic to expect everything in the theatre to be original, it does not offer anything fresh or amusing. It has an adventurous spirit, but it needs to find greater inventiveness, to say something that had not already been said too many times before.