The Graduate

The Graduate_Jeff BusbyIn today’s society the word ‘cougar’ is like a fashion statement. It’s more acceptable nowadays for older women to date younger men than it was decades ago. Younger men want to date older women because of their life experience and independence.

When I heard The Graduate was to open in Melbourne starring the legendary Jerry Hall, I knew this was a play I had to see.

I grew up admiring Jerry Hall, first watching her strut and pout in the clip Let’s Stick Together, to gracing the catwalks around the world, and marrying rock star Mick Jagger. She clearly proves that there is life after divorce, and that women can still make a statement no matter how old they are.

I’d seen Jerry Hall being interviewed about the play, and her grace, humour, and down to earth personality won me over. She is in a class and league of her own.

I haven’t seen the movie nor read the book. I know the tune Mrs Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel is often referred to as the song where the ‘seductive cougar’ scores a young male. The book was made into a movie which launched Dustin Hoffman’s career – then an unknown actor stepping into the role of Benjamin, and Anne Bancroft the role of Mrs Robinson.

Opening night couldn’t have been more perfect, the red carpet was rolled out, the theatre a buzz and Melbourne certainly turned on the balmy weather.

The play opens with Benjamin’s parents wanting him to join guests downstairs to a welcome home in honour of his graduation. He wasn’t in any mood to join in the celebrations, but there was one woman who wanted to celebrate with Benjamin, alone. Her name – Mrs Robinson.

When Jerry Hall walked on stage the audience erupted with applause, and why wouldn’t they? The tall, charismatic blonde from Texas looks sensational at 57. She has her eyes set on the handsome Benjamin played by Timothy Dashwood who like Jerry Hall, embraced the role and made it his own.

The story follows their affair with some twists and turns. Benjamin finds himself caught in a love triangle as he becomes attracted, and then falls in love with Mrs Robinson’s daughter Elaine played by the beautiful and talented Claire Lovering. In the book Elaine only exists as a person, but in the play the relationship with her ‘alcoholic’ mother is played out.

Luke Hewitt who plays the role of Mr Robinson is no stranger to working with Jerry Hall. He played the role in Perth, and much to the delight of audiences, has joined the cast for the Melbourne season.

Pippa Grandison in the comic role of Benjamin’s mother, proves she’s such a versatile performer. Peter Houghton as Benjamin’s father compliments the cast.

The set is cleverly designed, with smooth flawless scene changes, costumes and props are in keeping with the era, and full credit to the supporting cast who are all stars in my eyes.

The hilarious battle scene in the church where young Benjamin shows up at Elaine’s wedding to claim her as his own, brings out some truths and secrets that were hidden for quite some time.

On a final note, whether Jerry Hall does strip down to nothing? Yes – and even in the nude, she shows audiences why she’s still top in her field.

Nobody has played the role of Mrs Robinson more times than Jerry Hall. Three curtain calls later, it was clearly obvious the audience lapped up her every move, strut, attitude, seduction, humour, charisma, grace, sarcasm, self-righteousness and vulnerability that is – Mrs Robinson.

The Graduate
Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Performance: Tuesday 24 September 2013
Season continues to 13 October 2013

For more information, click here!

Image: Timothy Dashwood and Jerry Hall by Jeff Busby

Review: Betty Samis