Secret Bridesmaids’ Business

By Elizabeth Coleman. Hunters Hill Theatre Company. Directed by Vivien Wood. Club Ryde. 11 – 27 November, 2022

Reviewed : 13 November, 2022

Photo : supplied

Elizabeth Coleman uses the occasion of a major commitment – namely marriage – to present a number of moral dilemmas. Is it important to tell the truth? Is love more important than fidelity? Is the cost and glamour of a wedding more important than integrity?

They are big questions. Serious questions. But Coleman cloaks their gravity in a story that could be the day before any wedding. Everyone is excited. There are little last minute problems – the guest list, place cards, shoes – but nothing that can’t be overcome. The bride, her bridesmaids and her slightly over-bearing mother have booked adjoining rooms in a hotel and the scene is set for a cosy night together.

Director Vivien Wood and her cast make the most of the very natural dialogue that introduces the characters and sets the mood. It’s not easy to make dialogue appear spontaneous, but, as  Wood says in her program notes, “relationships need work and attention”, and Wood has obviously worked hard with her cast to achieve the spontaneity with which they relate and the naturalness of their actions and reactions.

Photo : supplied

This is especially important in a play where characters could become two dimensional or stereotypical. Wood hasn’t allowed this to happen. Every character is believable, convincing. The women appear to have known each other for years, put up with each other’s foibles, and shared each other’s dreams.

This is especially evident in a scene where the bride, Meg (Anna Desjardins) reminisces with her best friend Lucy (Laura Stead). Desjardins and Stead chat with the warmth and intimacy of trusting friends. Sitting cross-legged on the bed, they giggle together, sharing treasured moments. This is an exceptional scene and one of which Wood should be proud.

Lighter, but similarly natural moments occur in the first few scenes where Meg and her matron-of-honour Angela (Kirsty McGowan) deal with the flustering of Meg’s mother Colleen (Lois Marsh). McGowan is restrained, accommodatingly keeping the peace between mother and daughter, while sharing some eye-rolling and raised eyebrows behind Colleen’s back! Bacon plays a fussy mother, advising and admonishing with the picky twitchiness of pre-wedding nerves.

All goes wrong when Lucy, who is well-known for her directness and honesty decides she must tell Meg about some gossip she has heard about Meg’s fiancé James and one of Meg’s friends.

Enter James (Dan Ferris) and Naomi (Chloe Horne) – and the part of the plot that is a little less convincing albeit emotional, confronting. As such, it requires some thoughtful directing and acting, which Wood handles cleverly.

Photo : supplied

I have no intention of spoiling the outcome! Audiences will react to the conclusion in different ways depending on their own beliefs and baggage! Suffice to say, this cast presents the dilemmas Coleman has imagined in a way that will make them think and evalute.

Coleman has broken the continuity of the play with fourth-wall-breaking monologues in which the characters elaborate on their objectives. These ‘interruptions’ are unnecessary adjuncts that break the action, especially with this cast who have established their characters and the situations so clearly. Nevertheless, Wood has incorporated them effectively on a set that is simple and effective.

Secret Bridesmaids’ Business is an interesting study in what a wedding is! Is the expense and the excitement more important that the commitment? Or doesn’t that really matter anymore? Secret Bridesmaids’ Business is a little deeper than it looks!

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine