Don’t have time to read the full review? Click here for a quick summary of the who, what, where and wine of this production.
The Genesian Theatre is a pretty special place. An old church on Kent Street with about 120 seats, I was met on entry by a line of people a fair bit older than me who advised I probably shouldn’t sit in my aisle seat quite yet, because the people assigned the middle aisle seats hadn’t yet arrived. Standing along the wall with them, I was able to admire the cosy atmosphere, stained glass windows and the vibrant ruby red of the curtain, which soon rose to reveal the setting of the next 1hr 45min – Home Chat.
Home Chat is a Noel Coward play, written in 1927 but only now making its Australian debut, and tells the story of Janet Ebony and her friend Peter Chelsworth. The two close friends, each married to someone else, survive a train crash because they were sleeping in the same carriage and are promptly accused of having an affair. When their spouses, family and friends refuse to believe that nothing untoward has occurred and condescendingly offer to forgive them for their allegedly scandalous behaviour, Peter and Janet decide to go all-in on petty revenge and play a prank on them all.
Back in 1927, reviews of Home Chat ranged from light outrage over its positive representation of women having friends and being independent, and disappointment that the strong feminist statement it had the potential to make was, in the plot, significantly watered down.
Here in 2021, the themes really just resonate as common sense – and pretty pared back at that – so the strength of this adaption is found in the performances of actors and the energy and wit they bring to each of their characters. Abbie Love injects lightning bolts of energy and bucketloads of cheek and spirit into all of her scenes as protagonist Janet, and her chemistry with Chelsword, played by Cameron Hutt, makes us all long for a friend as loyal as he – and frankly wonder if they really are secretly in love! But the mums and the butler really steal the show.
Janet and her husband Paul’s mothers, played by Jenny Jacobs and Lois Marsh respectively, snip and snipe at each other and anyone else in the room, feign either ignorance or omniscience depending on which one most benefits them. They push their performance right up to the line between comedic emphasis and overacting without ever crossing it, an art form in itself.
Meanwhile, Pallet the butler played by Robert Green is the solid ground of this fun and flippant play. Always tidying up, fixing the tea, and singing us through set changes, he brings a much-needed reassuring air of calm among the chaos.
In community theatre, the acoustics can be a little harsher, the noises of feet and moving furniture much louder on the well-trodden, poorly soundproofed timber floor. It’s endearingly familiar and homey, and it suits a nostalgic story like Home Chat well.
This isn’t a play that will give you greater insight into our world or leave you begging for more. But as a fun, quirky, budget-friendly night out in the city, it’s an understated gem to discover in Sydney this November.
Wine Pairing | Rosé
Rosés sit across an enormous spectrum based on the type of grape they’re made of and the mine-making process used by each individual producer, so there is one to fit any occasion – including the lovely Home Chat!
My Pick: The Upstarts Rosé, 2020
The 2020 Upstarts Rosé is a deliciously cheeky drop. Its strawberry, blossom and grapefruit notes, combined with a high acidity, makes it reminiscent of the gossip, scandal and sordid ideas enjoyed in Home Chat. Low in alcohol and dry as Janet’s sarcasm on the palate, it’s easy and enjoyable drinking for a good price.
This wine is produced in the Clare Valley, SA, and will set you back between $15-18. I got my bottle, and a number of other wines by The Upstarts (all of them very enjoyable!) in my Good Pair Days subscription box.
|Aussie Season||6 Nov to 12 Dec 2021, Genesian Theatre|
|Theatre Type & Genre||Play, high society|
|See it if you like||nostalgia with a good side dish of gossip and spite – all in good fun, of course!|
|Other Info||This play was first performed in 1927 and only revived in 2019!|
|Criteria for Wine Pairing||Acidic, fruity, aged, regionality|