I am used to being the play-goer who laughs the loudest and often, but I was easily drowned out by my fellow audience members when I attended the opening night of Roots and Wings this week.
The audience were vocal in showing their appreciation for the punchy and original one liners which were delivered with ease by the cast.
The stage is cleverly set in two halves, one a hospital waiting room and the other a ward room.
The set design, lighting and props are just enough to create both spaces convincingly without cluttering the stage, allowing plenty of movement for the actors to use the area well. One stage prop however had me grinding my teeth; it's no wonder the coffee machine stopped working!
Griff (Morris West) has just discovered what his wife Ruby (Gillian Somers) has known for some time, that his son Nigel is not only a drag queen but also gay.
Morris's portrayal of Griff, reacting to the news, is genuinely convincing. Through the play, glimpses into Griff's past offered insight into the stoic nature of his character.
I immediately warmed to Ruby, whose understanding of the situation comes from every mother's instinct to protect and support her child no matter the circumstance. Gillian's line delivery, body language and gestures all worked together to create a well rounded and believable character who the audience can sympathise with.
It can't be easy to act a whole play from a hospital bed but Simon Mace as Nigel, restricted to just arm gestures and facials, kept up a spirited and consistent portrayal of Griff and Ruby's son.
Playing Nigel's 'father-in-law' Vernon was Bryan Vickery, who gave his character depth as he portrayed a worried looking but accepting and eager to please father figure.
Vernon's wife, the aloof and slightly haughty Rita, was played by Tash Paton who made quite the entrance in a va-va-voom, red dress. Her character nicely contrasted with Ruby while still showing motherly love, albeit in a different way.
Nurse Andrea (Anna McDermott) provided light relief and enabled the other characters to bounce their personalities off hers.
The magic happened best when characters were paired in dialogue. Each cast member's quick delivery and pick up of lines had me convinced that these were characters that had known and conversed with each other for years. Act One was a snappy and interesting glimpse into the complexity of life that lies beneath the surface. After all, everyone has a story and to paraphrase one of the characters insights on life, "no one gets it right all the time."
In Act Two, the dialogue started to overlap back and forth between the groupings of characters situated in each room.
Understandably, given the trickiness of this technique, the pace slowed and I found myself drawn to watch whoever was the stronger pairing, either missing the lines delivered by the other cast members, or just finding them a distraction. As a result, Act Two didn't quite have the same impact of the first half, however, this doesn't mean it wasn't thoroughly entertaining start to finish.
This was a play full of fun and substance; and I recommend you head to New Plymouth Repertory to catch a performance.