Marriage looks tough. At least that's the impression we got from Brisbane Arts Theatre's Mixed Doubles: An Entertainment on Marriage. First performed in 1969, it is a series of eight short plays from various writers, interwoven with short monologues by George Miley. It truly is a fascinating set of plays - each one providing various insights into different stages of married life.
Although the plays dealt primarily with dysfunctional interactions between married couples, they were often presented as comedies so as to soften the blow. The characters in the plays ranged from nervous newlyweds to elderly couples who had experienced most of their life together. We particularly enjoyed Countdown by Alan Ayckbourn, in which an old couple performed their daily tea ritual. They would shout short and fussy pleasantries at each other, but then verbalise their acerbic inner monologues to the audience. Mixed in to the comedies were darker dramas, including Silver Wedding by John Griffith Bowen, which presented a particularly depressing domestic argument.
The cast was a mix of experienced and less-experienced actors. This worked well though, as the younger actors to have a chance to shine, while the older actors were able to give it their all. Stand-outs included Damien Campagnolo, an incredible actor who managed to switch between believable UK accents with great ease. Tamara McLaughlin was also very funny as a less than perfect housewife playing doubles tennis with her husband, delivering verbal, and actual shots, at the back of his head. The director and actor Alex Lanham, also played a very amusing prurient priest in The Vicar.
The cast and crew should be commended for putting on such a complete show, especially after the rights for the first play they chose were pulled after three weeks into rehearsal.
Overall it made for an entertaining evening, with the short plays and pithy monologues maintaining the audience's interest. The plays were funny and had laugh out loud moments, but they also touched upon more painful moments in marriage. Apparently two can also be a crowd.