31 July 2018
Birthdays and more lost
Now, this was a strange thing, No-one actually knew Wanda June, at least no-one in this family. She was in Heaven. It was her Birthday cake that appeared sometime during the first act. It was on sale and bought for a lost husband's birthday. WJ had just died in an accident and her parents hadn't picked up the cake. This was a play by Kurt Vonnegut of Slaughterhouse 5 fame and more. KV had been a POW outside Dresden when it was flattened by Allied bombing so he was early to be concerned with mass killings. The story was set in 1972 and some scenes some time before and in Heaven where time is immaterial. Apparently shuffleboard is all the rage there, with Wanda June and various military types. 1972 is just post hippies and Summer of Love and Vietnam so it was inevitable there was at least one peace necklace being worn, by a new-age doctor, Norbert Woodly. He's to be engaged to Penelope Ryan. PR has a son, Paul. Her husband, Harold, had been pronounced dead after being missing 15 years. He had been a seriously male ex-soldier and game hunter. PR was also being pursued by Herb Shuttle, a very successful vacuum cleaner salesman. He's the one who bought the cake ... for Harold's birthday. Harold had been lost in South America with his helicopter pilot buddie, Looseleaf Harper, famed for dropping the A-bomb on Nagasaki (the actual pilot was Charles W Sweeney flying the B-29 bomber called Bockscar). Suffice to say Harold and Looseleaf arrive home unexpectedly and all manner of unhappiness ensues. Strange play. Nicely done by our longstanding Canberra Rep company at Theatre 3 with sickly 70s-coloured scenery and costumes and relevant musical cues. But strange; interesting but strange. There's a final dust-up between Norbert and Harold, Harold the clever and confident man of arms and Norbert the new man carrying the power of words and emotions. It's not surprising (or, for that matter, convincing) how it turns out, but no spoiler. Perhaps the most touching part, in a play that speaks with irony rather than heart, is Looseleaf's turning at the end. And Penelope's singular strength and independence. So there's some good even if the world tends to death and Heaven.
Canberra Rep presented Happy Birthday Wanda June, a play by Kurt Vonnegut. Performers were Jess Waterhouse (Penelope Ryan), Nick Dyball (Paul Ryan), Michael Sparks (Harold Ryan), David Bennett (Looselead Harper), Rowan McMurray (Herb Shuttle), Peter Holland (Norbert Woodly), Jemima Phillips (Wanda June), Iain Murray (Major Monigswald) and Antonia Kitzel (Mildred Harper) under Cate Clelland (Director).