British farces of the 1980s are a genre unto themselves and The Opposite Sex, the latest offering from Townsville Little Theatre, is exactly what you would expect.
The show – the third consecutive British farce from Director Alan Cooke – dishes up all the common ingredients:
A generous helping of witty one liners
A heaping battle of the sexes
Moments of confusion
Risque undertones; and
Lashings of dialogue mixed at high speed.
In this case, the result light, fluffy and deliciously satisfying.
The Opposite Sex opens in the loungeroom of Mark (Rick Dart) and Vicki (Janelle Croft), a married couple who are quite clearly having some troubles. When Judith (Jodie Bell) visits the home covering the rounds of Vicki’s usual Avon lady, Mark recognises her as a long-lost love and invites Judith and her husband Eric (Andy Hodgson) for a dinner party the next evening. Naturally, two warring couples and two husbands opposed to every view the other holds creates plenty of drama and chaos as the evening progresses.
The cast of four makes this lightning-paced farce look effortless.
Rick Dart is a newcomer to the Townsville stage and has had a fantastic first outing in this show, proving himself with a commanding stage presence, wonderful expression and great comedic timing. Opposite him, Janelle Crofts’s diminutive stature seemed to grow to meet Rick as the fiery and fork-tongued Vicki. Seemingly sweet at first, Janelle made this character a force to be reckoned with and one I certainly wouldn’t want to cross.
Usually a darling of local musicals, it was a huge delight to see Jodie Bell step into a play. As the ditzy and down-trodden Judith, Jodie had the audience rapt from the moment she took the stage. Her endearing knack for over-the-top physicality moved the audience from laughter to pity and back again. In total contrast to Judith, Andy Hodgson succeeded in making Mark almost irredeemably loathsome. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actor so apt at eliciting such as audible disdain from the audience – on purpose!
Together, the four were a tight unit. Despite a hugely demanding script, I didn’t detect a single dropped line between them.
If you were on the fence about marriage when you walked into the theatre, you will have certainly sworn clean off it by the time you walk out! These couples take such delight in firing shots at their spouses. The script posed a very real threat of coming off out-dated, but Alan and his cast have managed to redirect it to make some of the more ageing material appeal better to a contemporary audience. Where in by-gone decades many of the scathing remarks would have been hammed up for laughs, but instead they have wisely chosen to lean into the insults and emphasise the toxicity of these two marriages even in the laughable circumstance the characters have found themselves in. It would have no doubt been hugely rewarding for the cast and crew to hear the audience groan, gasp and even heckle in response to so many lines. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever sat in a crowd that was more vocally engaged in both the comedy and cruelty of the action.
The polish of the cast is matched by the high calibre presentation. The set is schmick. The costumes looked great. Sound and lighting is sophistically restrained.
The men’s make-up could do with a lighter touch, but this is nit-picking really.
In all, The Opposite Sex is a really sharp play that promises audiences a light, fun, easy night at the theatre.
Townsville Little Theatre’s The Opposite Sex runs 17-20 March 2021 at PIMPAC