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Review: Misery Loves Company at KXT

Review by Kate Gaul


Legit Theatre Co present this new black comedy by emerging writer Isabella Reid (Directed by Mathew Lee).  Ten actors pour into a suburban Northern Irish room in 1977 to mourn the passing of Daphne, beloved mother to Jackie, daughter to George and sister to Dolores and Henry. Daphne is remembered for a keen passion for swing-dancing, a mighty collection of brooches and a new venture into lesbianism. Under the shadow of Irish Troubles, a family mourns. The production begins well with a music chorus.  The spirited cast who sings and play instruments is a delight. Clare Hennesey impresses as composer and sound designer. Her work gives us place and emotional temperature. It’s a real cut above. The colours and textures of designer Ruby Jenkins are just right and point to the real care that has taken this play from a small idea of a play to this full scale 70-minute event.


Comedy is hard and Reid can certainly write a good joke. Mostly the cast deliver the jokes – a combination of character and timing. It occasionally feels as if everyone has watched too may eps of “Derry Girls” to learn the accent and the dry comic timing intended in a piece about life in the face of death.  The Northern Irish accent if delivered accurately would be impenetrable to us so some concession must be made in an Australian play. It is uneven here.


Impressive performances include Clay Crighton – a talented musician and actor and here plays a small child who drinks the whiskey infused cup of tea, with hilarious results; Mark Langham who plays Pa George who has dementia – it’s a beautifully written part and gives the play a potential transcendence; Teale Howie has fantastic comic chops (he plays the in-home carer); and for my money, Lincoln Elliot just doesn’t have enough to do – he’s a major talent. Overall, it’s a great ensemble. Director Mathew Lee has crafted a sparking event. It is tricky knowing who is who, but we roll with the antics and compare notes in the foyer. Father John is a character both in the drama and cast as the narrator of it. His functionality could assist ameliorating any confusion.


The play (at 70 minutes) is overly long.  It starts with a bang and the ends with the dreaded whimper.  The big joke which reveals itself at the end of the play doesn’t quite work because the audience know who/what is in the coffin well before the characters do. Why? What is beyond the literal meaning of the title “Misery Loves Company” – indicating that it is better to suffer the slings and arrows of life in a group/family/tribe than alone. What can the family elder who is slowly returning to s second childhood teach us?


It takes a village to develop and produce a new work. Hats off to Legit Theatre for getting this premiere to the stage.  This surely won’t be the last time we her from Isabelle Reid. See it!

Image Credit: Clare Hawley

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