The Dora Fay Davenport Show: How to Achieve Domestic Bliss by Nigel Sutton and Jenny Hope at the National Museum of Australia Studio, March 12-13, 2006, and Saturday-Sunday March 18-19, 10.30-11.30am and 2.00-3.00pm. Tickets: $5 Bookings: 6208 5021 Details: http://www.nma.gov.au/events/major_events/the_dora_fay_davenport_show/
It's a bit disconcerting, but very funny, when museum exhibits come alive and you see your own memories on stage. Dora Fay Davenport is a fiction but she could easily have been the famous fifties radio housewife's adviser she claims to be, presenting her first show on brand-new television in 1957.
How I remember the slightly gauche fixed smiles and awkward hesitations, and the compulsory English accents, of the first Australian live television. Presenters were not allowed on without proper elocution lessons, and Sutton and Hope have clearly done their homework. So the play works as it is meant to for Senior Citizens like me, almost squirming while laughing at what we - or at least our mothers and fathers - were like then.
But Dora's how to decorate the home and cook a sponge show takes an interesting twist when her husband makes fun of the idea that her housework is not real work - like a man in his office for eight hours at a stretch. Hope does a wonderful comic solo, starting at 5am (she has to light the wood stove), getting the four children aged 9 to 12 and her husband out of the house on time with their lunches, preparing a tuna mornay for the unexpected dinner guest - her mother-in-law, who checks her dusting and offers no more than faint praise for the mornay attempt "Nice - but what is it?" ...... through to her husband's querulous demand, when she finally needs a cup of tea after putting the children to bed and washing up: "Aren't you coming to bed, dear." A flashback to World War II shows how women then were accepted as real workers - all forgotten by men by 1957.
Commissioned by the National Museum, this play is a great initiative which young people enjoy as much as seniors do. See it now before it moves on to the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, but I trust that it will return for a longer season here soon.© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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