Review by Alison Stoddart
In the aptly named Flight Path Theatre on Tuesday 13 September a convivial crowd of patrons generated a buzz of excitement in the bar before the opening night performance of A Thousand Words. This theatre, part of the Addison Road Community Centre, was welcoming and the bar area was a mix of homely lounge room comfort and fun bar vibe.
The doorway into the theatre was obscured by a heavy curtain and after a welcome to country that was quite moving, the crowd was ushered inside. There was funky music playing and the two cast members were already on the stage floor with their backs to the audience. The set was effective yet minimal in its design, with props to establish the scene as a child’s world.
Using that old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ this play interprets in a unique way a marriage in turmoil. Alice is a small child who likes to paint and draw. Her creative, and very glittery, pictures of ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’ take pride of place on the front of the fridge, held there with the expensive magnet. Alice is the focaliser through which the Mummy picture, the narrator, tells the story.
Lucy Webster plays Daddy and A.M. McQueen plays Mummy. These two actors were very well rehearsed and even the intrusion of airplane noise and the odd mishap of falling props did not distract them. The doll-like makeup both sported created the effect of a world viewed through a five-year old’s eyes and Mummy even had a passing resemblance to an Aunt Sally doll.
Writer Hayley Ditcham delves into relationships, infidelity, love, marriage and the existential meaning of life with this short play.
An abstract picture of Daddy has been recently added to the fridge, a strangely dressed figure with an unusually small head. This is in direct contrast to Mummy’s picture whose head is generously large, a fact that is not missed by Daddy. As the first few minutes of the play introduces the audience to this world of fridge art and how it works, we learn from Mummy picture that life on the fridge can be fleeting and that there are only four ways of being taken off the fridge, a fate worse than, well, everything. An Alice produced picture can be reconciled to the recycling bin, regifted as a birthday card, composted, or at worst, tossed in the garbage. We are slowly walked through how Alice views her father by Mummy’s explanations. Of how he works long hours, of how he lost his job, and how he stupidly invested the family money. We start to see why Daddy picture is not properly coloured in. At this point in the play I felt the storyline was heading down the path of the hardworking absent father and the lonely and bitter housewife but instead the narrative takes a different and melancholy turn. These observers, sitting on the fridge, sum up the themes of the play. That everyone makes mistakes, and in the grand scheme of existential angst, your mistakes don’t define you. Life is short, everyone is expendable and who is going to remember you anyway. There are some very funny lines involving a macaroni monkey and Mummy’s extra marital affair which had the audience laughing out loud.
A Thousand Words is a cleverly written play. The actors were engaging and convincing as ‘fridge’ art. The premise of portraying five characters through two is a tricky concept and well executed here. I enjoyed every moment and do not hesitate to recommend catching a performance on Wednesday 14th and Thursday 15th September