Barb (Clare Bartholomew) and Jim (Daniel Tobias) have been married for 50 years. Soon, friends will gather at their large suburban house. There’s just a little preparation of food and decorations ahead, and then all can celebrate The Anniversary. What could possibly go wrong?
Bartholomew and Tobias created much-loved art-house post-punk Kraut-rock act Otto & Astrid – Die Roten Punkte. Aside from some great songs, O&A shows were also notable for characters and physical comedy. The Anniversary builds on these hallmarks.
We began with Barb and Jim padding around the house (formed of a deliciously dated and supremely functional set design by Bronwyn Pringle) in slippers and pyjamas. Pretty quickly, visual humour emerges from Jim’s languid approach to preparations. This contrasts with Barb’s growing anxiety. Some problems need to be sorted quickly, or else this golden anniversary will lose its gloss.
The setup, and committed performances from all involved, give plenty of opportunity for misadventure and conflicts in this appealing farce with a darkly comedic slant. Whilst there’s little dialogue, aided by Peter Houghton’s direction, the piece delivers a snappy series of sight gags.
Inventiveness of the situations, a touch of meta-theatricality, and escalating chaos (assisted by Sound Design & Composition by Steph O’Hara, and Pringle again for Lighting Design), with delightfully detailed props and other surprises, often provided satisfying laughs.
Covid-19 has delayed the production for some time. MICF audiences in 2022 can feel fortunate to finally have had a chance to see The Anniversary. Although the Melbourne season has ended, Brisbane can look forward to a run of five shows in the near future.
The Malthouse – Beckett Theatre, 113 Sturt Street, Melbourne
Performance: Sunday 17 April 2022 – 6:10pm
Following its Melbourne season, The Anniversary will be presented at Metro Arts, West End (Brisbane): 21 – 23 April 2022. For more information, visit: www.metroarts.com.au for details.
Image: Jim (Daniel Tobias) and Barb (Clare Bartholomew) star in The Anniversary – photo by Andrew Wuttke
Review: Jason Whyte