Privileged pleasure

The Kingfisher (Javeenbah Theatre Company)

Javeenbah Theatre, Nerang

May 26 – June 6

It is countryside England where Lady (Evelyn) Townsend (Viviane Gian) arrives from her dim husband’s funeral to revisit love long-ago lost with successful novelist and unconfirmed bachelor Sir Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins), who lives in his dotage by the river with his long-serving and dedicated, but also pompous and petulant butler Hawkins (Graham Scott). It is a privileged world of slippers, service bells and after-dinner drinks, but also one of unrealised dreams and concealed emotions, well-suited to the comedy of manners style that defines the Javeenbah Theatre Company’s “The Kingfisher”.

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William Douglas Home’s words are sometimes verbose but certainly witty, generating many a laugh in themselves, but especially when brought marvellously to life by the performances of each of the three-hander’s actors. Indeed, in the hands of this skilled cast, the script stands the story on its merit, meaning that the excessively detailed and stunning in-itself staging is not only unnecessary ,but at times distracting in its novelties, like water feature sounds of the river by the garden. And although costumes are on-point, conspicuously-aging makeup also sometimes make it difficult to focus solely on the story being shared. Still, where the humour is showing a little age, the cast has done a great job in exploiting every opportunity to general a laugh.

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Under Nathan Schulz’s direction, performances are excellent, especially in the physical scenes that start Act Two. Graham Scott makes it immediately clear that his character dislikes Evelyn’s sudden reappearance. Passive aggressive but also far from subtle, his perfectly-time reactions and expressive body language convey more than any words could. As the object of his abhorrence, Viviane Gian is perfect in her reluctance to let her guard down and initial oblivion to Hawkins’ taunts. However, it is Chris Hawkins who anchors the production with a natural and engaging performance as the tale’s protagonist, nostalgically wanting to recapture past days of kingfisher watching under the beech tree. And he is at his best in show of his range through eruption in an Act Two angry rant in response to Hawkins’ meddling into his marriage proposal to the new widow.

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“The Kingfisher” is a delightfully British story, yet its light-hearted examination of the need for person fulfilment is so universal as to engender audience contemplation long after the show’s finish. In the hands of Javeenbah Theatre Company, both its story and its message are pleasantly brought to life, making it easy to appreciate its characters’ wants to chase a second summer despite having had the first flush of youth long ago pass by. For an entertaining experience in a comfortable theatre, “The Kingfisher” at Javeenbah is best not missed.

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