Playing It Safe

Twelve Angry’s Bachelorette is a solid production hindered by its own devotion to the text, but nonetheless prompts hearty laughs and reflection on what it means to grow up.

The play is about a bunch of deplorable fuck-ups in their late 20s, coming together the night before Becky’s wedding to get wasted and complain about Becky. Sort of. The three leads, Gena (Rebekah Robertson), Katie (Lucie Gavanon) and Regan (Holly Brindley) are assholes who are pretty into cocaine, but they’re also witty and opinionated and their fraught relationships with each other and with Becky make up the bulk of the work.

The cast is strong and genuinely funny, and it’s clear that they’ve developed the chemistry to form an effective ensemble. Gavanon’s performance is particularly impressive. Although at first Katie seems to be the stock dumb blonde, Gavanon brings so much sweetness, humour and vulnerability to the part as to make her real. It’s one of the best performances I’ve seen in a while. Conor Misson and Joshua Monaghan also do great work with the supporting male roles. The eleventh hour appearance of the much-discussed Becky (Sara Tabitha Catchpole) is fascinating to watch, as Catchpole makes you like and even respect this woman whom everyone else seems to hate. It’s a role that could easily be flat, but she gives it three dimensions and complexity in a very short space of time.

Director Matilda Dixon-Smith plays it relatively safe with this adaptation; scenes are broken up by blackouts, sound design is minimal, costumes and props are realistic. I’m actually pretty fond of traditional theatre, but frankly I thought the staging was a bit dull. Everything takes place in a single room over the course of one night, and despite all the drama that occurs, Dixon-Smith maintains things at a similar pace and level throughout. You get the impression that she loves the script to death and is incredibly faithful to it – more than she needs to be – and as a result doesn’t make it her own.

The props work is excellent for a show without a designated props manager – everything is functional and fitting for a swanky hotel. Hannah Crone’s costuming also did some efficient storytelling of its own, giving you a distinct impression of each character and their priorities. The lighting however is fairly static, which is a shame at times, as subtle shifts could have supported emotional ones, or better shown the passage of time.

The clean precision of Gabby Lewis’ constructed hotel room contrasted brilliantly at the outset with the grungy warehouse space of the Meat Market Stables. Unfortunately, the pieces of the walls designed to fall away as the play progresses were poorly executed, with obvious hinges and edges that did not sit flush with the rest of the set, which meant I kept waiting for them to come down. And when they did, it was with a sudden and distracting pop.
Given the importance of entrances, I’m also not sure why the door to the hotel room is to the right of the audience, causing us to crane our necks every time anyone arrived or left. Sight lines are a problem in general – I struggled to see anything that happened on the floor, and I was relatively close to the front.

Don’t get me wrong, I laughed. A lot. The cast is strong, the writing tight and the production slick. But maybe that was the problem. It all felt a little too slick. Even the messy parts, the breakdowns, the broken glass – they all felt oddly polished. For a show about difficult women and strained friendships, it seemed afraid of being ugly.

Kate Weston

Twelve Angry’s Bachelorette runs from December 6th-11th at the Meat Market Stables.

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