Wallflowering by Peta Murray. Starring Noeline Brown and Doug Scroope. Directed by Bruce Myles. Produced by Christine Harris and Hit Productions at Tuggeranong Arts Centre, April 27, 2004.
What a pity that such a good production of such a good play with such good actors could squeeze only 2 performances in Canberra into over 41 weeks of touring. I can only hope that Tuggeranong Arts Centre's coup can be followed up by a return season here.
Wallflowering began its stage life here at the Australian National Playwrights Conference. After a public reading at the Sydney Theatre Company in 1989, Canberra Theatre Company - our last attempt at a permanent professional mainstage company - staged Wallflowering's first full production. Since then it has been produced around Australia, in England and USA and has even been screened on Polish television, in a Polish translation. The ABC has also adapted it for radio.
I wondered whether the play may have seemed dated by now. It's like having my life flashed before my eyes as Peg and Cliff face the onslaught of feminism. As Peg's "friends" and their books turn her "old-fashioned" ideas of happiness and love topsy-turvey, Cliff's equally "old-fashioned" beliefs about his role in life are challenged. He comes to understand that adults are no more than the children they always were, taller but no less nasty towards those who don't accept the group norms.
Peg's friends prove the point when they turn up to Peg and Cliff's fancy-dress party, dressed as Peg and Cliff. Peg, in tears, dressed as a carrot, finds Cliff as Julius Caesar, in tears for the first time in his life, and realises this is the moment when she loves him the most.
Held together by their love of dancing, Noeline Brown's Peg and Doug Scroope's Cliff tell us their story with such great delicacy and skill that, in a world where selfishness and short term gains seem set to take over our lives, we know at the end that "old-fashioned" can mean lasting love. "And what's wrong with that?", as Peg says.
15 years on it seems that Wallflowering has not become dated. It now looks even more like a play for our time.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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