Written by: Richard Huber
Directed by: Richard Huber
Te Auaha, 17th Feb 2023
Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera
We stare back at them as impressions from beyond the drawing room window. Never truly within but never without either, the audience and the actors both “hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature”, as Shakespeare said. Or is it all just make-believe?
The eccentric yet quintessentially upper-class Lady Hermione (Sarah Barham) drapes herself artfully and aloofly over a chair, her loyal butler Roberts (Blaise Barham) in suspended animation until she pulls his strings to distract her from the tedium of a socialite’s existence. Set in the drawing room of a British estate in the 1920s, Wonderful is a witty and absurdist investigation into love, shifting values, and the lost generation. Discussing monocles, sex, bohemian Berlin, “what the actress said to the bishop”, and Lady Hermione’s play, the pair grapple with the inherited values that are no longer relevant and the utter disillusionment of a post-war world.
Writer and director Richard Huber describes Wonderful as “one part drawing-room farce, two measures of love, and a splash of the comedy of manners”. With only a chair and drinks cart for props, there is nothing for the characters to dance around except each other and their banter. Having known each other since childhood, Hermione and Roberts are in love with each other. She sees the entire relationship as a game, suggesting they run away to become “lesbians in Berlin”; Roberts, who fought in the Great War, is more cynical and realistic, knowing that a servant and a socialite don’t stand a chance against Britain’s entrenched classism. Therefore, Roberts and Hermione create a play within the play, where they can be together.
Using lighting (by Meko Ng and Jordan Wichman) to transition in and out of reality and imagination, the present and memory, Hermione and Roberts blur the lines between what is real and what is not for both themselves and the audience, making a space of their own somewhere in between where everything is Wonderful.
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