Review by Sarah Westgarth
Farce can be hard to pull off. The comedy relies on broad characterisation, unrealistic scenarios, and improbably coincidences. The chaos must be choreographed or the suspension of disbelief required is too easily lifted. Thankfully, Adelaide Rep’s production of ‘Perfect Wedding’ skates past the potential pitfalls and delivers on an absolutely raucous night at the theatre. Yes, the premise is thin and doesn’t offer up anything new or original, but under Sue Whylie’s direction and the ensemble’s excellent comedic chemistry and skills, the show is a hilarious romp that had the audience in peals of laughter.
Set the morning of Bill’s wedding to childhood sweetheart Rachel, the groom-to-be wakes up in his honeymoon suite with a woman he does not recognise. Hungover, panicked, and a little confused, Bill enlists the help of his best man Tom to keep his transgressions away from the bride, who is due to arrive at the hotel at any moment. Roping in the help of Julie (the chambermaid) Bill and Tom find themselves in a tangled web of lies, mistaken identities and relationship confusion as they try to make sure the wedding is as perfect as Rachel wants. It’s typical farce material, and there’s nothing transgressive about it, but Robin Hawdon’s script allows the basic scenario to be lifted by the quick-witted dialogue, clever word play, and innovative callbacks. The audience can often see the way things are going to unfold, but this works as strength rather than a detriment; we figure things out before the characters do, and it’s a delight to watch their idiocy catch up with them.
The opening scene between Bill and his unexpected companion is a little slow to get going; with the energy between the characters a little lacking and missing some clear comedic beats. Once the ensemble starts to expand and the hotel room gets more crowded, the play really kicks into gear, and after the rhythm is established, it continues at a cracking pace. Heath Trebilcock as the hapless Bill somehow manages to make the character likeable, despite his obvious flaws. His stunned reactions to each new revelation are a delight to watch, and his frantic interactions with Tom, played by Leighton Vogt, are some of the highlights of the show. Vogt is excellent as the best man, who becomes increasingly unravelled as the day goes on. He is able to play both poised and psychotic, and the arc between the two states is genuinely believable.
Most of the other female roles are given less to do; the role of Rachel is particularly thankless as the clueless fiancé who doesn’t get to really join in with any of the shenanigans, but has to be merely annoyed and exasperated as the others act crazy around her. Charlotte Batty manages to lift the material and prevent Rachel from just being another joyless, controlling bridezilla, and her chemistry with Megan Dansie as her mother Daphne is wonderful, as she finally has someone to interact with who isn’t just trying to keep her from entering the next room. Ellen Ferguson as Judy gives the most muted performance, relying on nervous smiles to sell her character’s conflict and vulnerable, which doesn’t always land. She has some sweet moments with Trebilock though, and she shines in those.
The standout in an already strong cast is Zanny Edhouse as Julie, the chamber maid who is reluctantly drawn into the wedding party’s antics. Edhouse’s facial expressions alone provide some of the biggest laughs of the night, and her physicality is a masterclass in comedic characterisation. She snaps off her dialogue with complete conviction and charm; she is simply outstanding.
Sue Wylie’s direction plays to the strengths of the script and the cast; there are so many near-misses and moments that rely on precise timing that could have gone wrong or seem contrived, but it’s all relatively seamless, and even the final climactic chaos when everything has gone as wrong as it possibly could somehow seems plausible.
“Perfect Wedding” may not have anything subversive or nuanced to say about modern day relationships, but it’s an incredibly fun play, brought to life by a tight cast and strong direction. All in all, it’s a delightful show and utterly hilarious—if you could do with a good laugh, don’t miss this one.