Barmaids is a very entertaining, hilarious play centred on little Aussie battlers, Nancy and Val. They have worked behind the bar their whole lives. Now middle-aged, they face the firing squad of unemployment as new owners decide that scantily clad waitresses will help revive their run-down pub. As if things weren’t bad enough, Nancy is out for revenge after a one night stand neglects to call her. To her complete surprise, a brick slips out of her hand and lands through the window of the dirty rotten scoundrel’s house. Will she be found out and arrested? Will she get her man back? Will she lose her job? The tension heightens as Val cops an earful, yet manages to keep waters calm in the pub of hard knocks, where everyone comes to drown their sorrows.
Award-winning writer, Katherine Thomson interviewed countless barmaids before penning this little Australian nostalgic gem. Her extensive television credits include tele-movies, The House of Hancock, Shapelle, Blackjack, Halifax, FP, and series, Australia: The Story of Us, Australia on Trial, Killing Time, East West 101, Satisfaction, Wildside, Grass Roots, Fallen Angels, Snowy, GP, Answered by Fire, Darwin’s Brave New World, Unfolding Florence – The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst, and Women He’s Undressed. Her plays include: Diving for Pearls, Darlinghurst Nights, A Sporting Chance, Mavis Goes to Timor, Wonderlands, Navigating, Tonight We Anchor in Twofold Bay.
Barmaids recounts stories, told by Nancy and Val, based on their experiences as barmaids. Keeping an audience entertained the whole way through is no simple feat but these barmaids pulled it off with style, as only true-blue Aussie barmaids can. How? By making the audience part of the show. When the barmaids warmly greet the audience ,or reprimand them for being too rowdy, we quickly realised that we were part of the show, as pub patrons. It wasn’t long before I noticed the tantalising smell of BBQ and around ten minutes later, I managed to score a steak and onion sandwich from the super-efficient Val. She called out, ‘who ordered the steak sandwich?’ and, as if in a trance, I put my hand up and was promptly handed a steak and onion sandwich. Barmaids is definitely a unique experience and made me realise we could expect the unexpected from this quirky play.
The mark of a true professional is making something difficult appear effortless. I had seen Kate McNair, (Nancy) and Tara Page, (Val) perform together in Macbeth, so I knew I was in for a treat. The energy required to play these roles, to their full potential, was carried off with apparent ease by these admirable thespians. I need to mention that Tara is visibly pregnant and was killing it. Both gave equally brilliant performances, as I knew they would.
One of my favourite scenes was watching Nancy drag herself to work, looking like the dog’s breakfast. After drowning her sorrows, over her one night stand, she ended up sleeping in her car. She was a hilarious sight, but most impressive was how she cleaned herself up while recounting her ordeal. It was easy to warm to Nancy. She wore her heart on her sleeve, revealing her insecurities after losing a potential lover to a younger woman with extremely long legs. Nancy’s dishevelled hair, smudged makeup and exposed underwear were masterfully readjusted before our eyes, as she looked through a non-existent mirror.
here is so much going on that if you missed any dialogue, you would still be entertained with all the action. I found it hilarious how Nancy depicts the days of the week by pinning up panties marked Monday to Sunday. I have to admit my complete ignorance of the pub scene, but I certainly got a good insight as to what goes on behind pub walls. A barmaid doesn’t just serve drinks, she’s a therapist, with the emotional weight of a thousand souls on her shoulders. She should be entitled to earn a psychologist degree on the merit of a million hours of practical experience.
Director, Michael Sutton is to be commended for his brilliant casting and amazing set design. The stage looked exactly like a pub, complete with beer on tap and fully stocked fridge. Some of his cast choices were questionable. They looked and behaved like dummies and were in such a state of intoxication that they couldn’t lift their heads off the table throughout the whole play. It was no wonder they were physically thrown out by the barmaids. Lighting and sound did not go unnoticed and certainly added to the ambience, especially the karaoke scenes.
If you’re looking for a fun experience, then Barmaids won’t disappoint. You’ll be in great hands with Nancy and Val, and you’ll leave knowing a lot more about the antics of running a pub. Round up a group of mates or girlfriends, brush up on your karaoke and book your seats. You never know, you may end up with a steak and onion sandwich and free beer.
Gold Coast Little Theatre may be tricky to find, but I encourage you to discover this little gem hidden at the Queens Street end of Scarborough Street, behind the Westpac drive-through bank, and adjacent to the Southport South tram station. Parking is available in front of the theatre. There is wheelchair access and an electronic chair to help those with wobbly knees to manage the stairs. On opening nights you get to enjoy snacks on arrival and supper after the show. There’s a bar with an assortment of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and snacks ranging from cheese and biscuits to chocolates and chips.
Barmaids was performed at Gold Coast Little Theatre, Southport, QLD
Directed by: Michael Sutton
Technical Director: Lawrie Esmond
Sound & Lighting design: Michael Sutton
Audioscape & Sound Design: Lawrie Esmond
Stage Managers: Di Francis & Del Halpin
Technical support: Darren Marshall & Andrew Borg
Set Design: Kay Boxall & Terry Docker
Nancy: Kate McNair
Val: Tara Page
Reviewed on 17th of February 2018 by Jacquelin Melilli