Ladies In Black is based on a novel "The Women in Black", by Madeleine St John. Director Simon Phillips has brought Carolyn Burns' play and kiwi Tim Finn's (Split Enz) music and lyrics alive for Melbourne audiences. It is a quintessentially Australian play. Finn and Burns did an excellent job of capturing the Australian idiom, and they certainly appealed to the Australian sense of humour.
As our seats were very close to the front, you'll be relieved to hear that Geoff neither snored nor slept. In fact, I think he quite enjoyed the show "for a musical". I enjoyed it very much. The performances were all excellent, and every single cast member could really sing.
The story follows 16 year old Lesley on her first holiday job after completing high school. The first thing she does is tell everyone at work that her name is Lisa, because she wants "a girl's name". As someone whose middle name is Lesley, I wholeheartedly agree with her. There are lots of funny, witty lines in this show - in both the dialogue and the song lyrics.
|Christen O'Leary as Magda|
So what about the frocks? The store scenes are either in the cocktail dress department, where Lisa (Sarah Morrison) works with Faye (Naomi Price) and Patty (Lucy Maunder), or in "Model gowns", the couture dress department, with sophisticated continental Magda (Christen O'Leary). Young Lisa falls in love with one of the couture dresses, coincidentally named "Lisette".
|Lisa (Sarah Morrison) and Magda (Christen O'Leary) admiring Lisette.|
I did enjoy looking at the frocks, and I greedily eyed the rack of vintage cocktail gowns on the set, which I guessed were authentic vintage gowns. Surely they wouldn't pay for elaborate costumes just to form the setting. I'm guessing that most of the gowns worn by the cast would have been costumes made for the play, certainly the matched colour numbers with hats in the opening scene were.
My favourite garment in the play was not one of the couture gowns or cocktail frocks, but an amazing red and white halter neck swimsuit worn by Magda in one scene, sadly no photos. I also liked the ordinary cotton house dresses worn in the home scenes, they were probably vintage too. None of the "model gowns" thrilled me.
|And Rudi could really dance (Christen O'Leary and Bobby Fox)|
The highlight of the play for us was a song called "He's a bastard", performed by Patty (Lucy Maunder) with her mother and sisters, after her husband leaves her. How many words can you rhyme with bastard? (Remember, this is Australia. It's "Barsted", not "Bassted"). Try, in familial sequence, "He's always getting plastered" (extremely drunk, for our international readers), "He couldn't cut the mustard", "He simply can't be trusted", and on and on. Very funny.
|Magda (Christen O'Leary) and Lisa (Sarah Morrison) with a Model Gown.|
Ladies in Black is highly entertaining. It's on stage at the Sumner Theatre in Melbourne until 27th February.
Melbourne Theatre Company: http://www.mtc.com.au/plays-and-tickets/season-2016/ladies-in-black/