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Rules for Living at Red Stitch Actors Theatre

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by Elizabeth Quinn (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Melbourne and happy to spread the love for funky town with the WeekendNotes readers.If the feeling is mutual you can subscribe to my articles or share them with your friends.Or visit my website at diywoman.net.
Event: -
Family Xmas, too much booze - what could possibly go wrong?
Let's face it—we've all been there. Fractious family plus festive season plus too much Christmas cheer = yucky yuletide. Throw in a good-natured scrubber, a rule-bound matriarch, a rogue patriarch, a dipsomaniacal daughter-in-law and a healthy dose of sibling rivalry and you have Rules for Living in a nutshell.

rules for living, restitch, sam Holcroft,Rory Kelly, Caroline Lee, Jessica Clarke, Mark Dickinson, Lily McCarthy, Ella Newton, Jem Nicholas, Ian Rooney
Ella McCarthy, Caroline Lee, Ian Rooney, Jem Nicholas & Jessica Clarke


Each of the characters lives by a rule—Edith must clean to keep calm/Sheena must drink to contradict/Matthew must sit to tell a lie—that magically appears on part of the kitchen decor as the need arises. It's a clever device to help make sense of the onstage action, which ranges from the entertaining to the excruciating.

rules for living, redstitch, sam Holcroft,Rory Kelly, Caroline Lee, Jessica Clarke, Mark Dickinson, Lily McCarthy, Ella Newton, Jem Nicholas, Ian Rooney
Jem Nicholas as Carrie and Caroline Lee as Edith


Carrie, a newcomer to the family Christmas, tries and fails to stick to the script to 'just ask questions' recommended by boyfriend Matthew. In the face of the simmering resentments and unresolved sexual tensions stirred up by the gathering of this dysfunctional clan, her occasional crass outbursts provide much-needed light relief. 'I'm so hungry I could eat the back leg of the lamb of God' goes down particularly well with the audience, if not the pious Edith.

rules for living, restitch, sam Holcroft,Rory Kelly, Caroline Lee, Jessica Clarke, Mark Dickinson, Lily McCarthy, Ella Newton, Jem Nicholas, Ian Rooney
Rory Kelly and Jem Nicholas


This Australian premiere is part farce, part kitchen sink drama, part philosophical treatise on the evils of perfectionism. If you like your comedy understated and your drama subtle, Rules for Living may not be the play for you. At three hours long (including interval) this pudding was slightly over-egged for this reviewer.
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Why? An Australian premiere of a universal dilemma: Christmas with the rellies
When: Tuesday March 14 to Monday April 16
Phone: 03 9533 8083
Where: Red Stitch Actors Theatre
Cost: $49
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