Review by Yasmin Elahi
PIP Theatre in Milton celebrated the opening night of Grand Horizons in style. The play by Bess Wohl is a charming slice-of-life piece that was faithfully interpreted by the cast in this production.
Grand Horizons follows the story of Nancy and Bill, a retiree couple living in a housing estate called ‘Grand Horizons’. The show opens with Nancy asking for a divorce and quick as a flash their children arrive to come to the rescue. The play was nominated for a Tony Award and is an exploration of love, communication and family dysfunction.
Set design by Genevieve Ganner and Sarah Robertson conjured up the feel of a retirement village unit. Generic wallcoverings and set dressing leant to the sterile, cookie cutter feel of the house. Lighting design by Laura Charlotte was clever and subtle. The expected apartment lighting, such as recessed spot lights and lamps was enhanced by stage washes that underscored the action as it unfolded. Sound design mimicked a typical Australian street; birdsong, traffic and barking dogs, which further immersed the audience in this slice-of-life play.
Costumes, also by Ganner and Robertson complimented the various personalities of each character and illustrated their identities well. Special effects by Calum Johnston, who also assistant directed the play, was clever, effective and very unexpected.
Director Bronwyn Nayler wanted the play to evoke questions and allow the audience to reflect on their journey in life. Her natural directing style and flowing blocking created an ease of movement that was believable and relaxed. The rhythm and pace of the play was spot on and both comedic and heartfelt moments were handled diligently, so every joke and poignant beat hit exactly right.
Deidre Grace excelled as the protagonist Nancy. Her comedic timing was on point and her impassioned monologues had the audience on her side from the very beginning. Reminiscent of Kath Day from ‘Kath and Kim’, Grace’s performance as Nancy was one that everyone could relate to as their mother in some way – always well-meaning but an oversharer at times. She was the heroine of the piece and carried the play forward with gusto.
Steven Tandy played Bill with honesty. His earnest portrayal of the long-suffering husband was natural and relatable. Tandy allowed Bill’s kind heart to bleed through his slightly curmudgeon exterior at just the right moments. Tandy handled this complex character with expertise and dignity.
Brad McMurray played tightly-wound and overstressed Ben with energy. He walked the tightrope, between pleasing his wife and mother, well and his performance was relatable and stress levels palpable.
Cameron Hurry embodied the neurotic Brian excellently. Audience members felt for this son, who could not cope with the notion of his parents getting divorced. Hurry’s physical humor and witty remarks provided a wealth of laughs for the audience.
Gabby Carbon played daughter-in-law Jess with heart. Her portrayal of Jess’ best efforts to mollify her parents-in-law while also going through her own crisis was relatable and compassionate. She also believably handled her very-pregnant belly.
Lisa Hickey embraced the role of Carla, the love interest. Her zany fashion sense and joie de vivre personality was in direct juxtaposition of Nancy’s. Hickey handled this role carefully to ensure Carla never became over-the-top or a caricature performance.
The audience clearly enjoyed this production as the theatre rang with raucous laughter and remarks about how the characters were so like ‘my mum and dad’ could be heard in the foyer after the show – a testament to the natural blocking and believable acting. The only drawback was that the actors struggled to be heard, both over the laughter and in general. Nevertheless, a very funny and charming script brought to life by a talented cast and crew and masterful direction by Nayler. Definitely a show to be seen more than once.