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Theatre Review: The Book Club

The Book Club

by Roger Hall

Directed by Rodney Fisher

The Ensemble Theatre until October 3

Shakespeare and Chaucer aside, one of the most challenging projects for an actor is to perform a full-length, one person play without an intermission. To excel, the production requires a very special and talented actor and an equally skilled director.

Enter, up-centre, Amanda Muggleton, who has been at the top of her game for around forty years. With too many film, theatre and television credits to mention, my most memorable stage performances of her were in Shirley Valentine, Annie, Educating Rita, Master Class and Steaming. Television audiences will remember Muggleton in A Country Practice, Cop Shop and Prisoner.

From her entrance, Muggleton “breaks the fourth wall” to speak directly to the audience. The Ensemble Theatre’s performance area is a thrust stage, so the second and third walls are also broken.

Deb Martin’s children have left home and husband Wally is focusing all of his attention on training for a marathon, so being a voracious reader, Deb joins a book club that meets every month. Other members of the club are the heavily pregnant Caroline, Millie the Welsh confidante, Trish, Stephanie the no-nonsense German woman and the pretentious Meredith, a serial snorter who is married to surgeon Desmond.

Muggleton addresses the audience as if she’s talking to a few friends, telling them about the people in the club and she plays the characters as she’s sharing the stories. The Welsh, German and yuppie accents are nice vehicles for differentiation.

When Deb invites a local author to one of the meetings, a chain of events is set off and her relationship with the bearded narcissist evokes in her extreme feelings of happiness, frustration, anxiety, confusion and guilt.

Muggleton’s chatty style in delivering the 100 minute monologue without a break, combined with Rodney Fisher’s inconspicuous and skilful direction make the most of Roger Hall’s cleverly-written script.

Admittedly, when I saw that the media release for a play called The Book Club was in my inbox, the name didn’t exactly charge me with any excitement or anticipation, but the names Rodney Fisher and Amanda Muggleton were compelling, and I’m grateful for having seen it. It ultimately demonstrates the skill of the actor and the director in its purest form and is thoroughly entertaining. Don’t miss it.

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