Old maid edgy in hands of lady leads
WHEN a play is dubbed ‘Downton Abbey meets Monty Python’, you probably envision a period drama with a side of silliness.
And while When He Gets That Way – nominated for the 2017 Martin Sims Award – meets that brief, it takes a further and unexpected turn into the strange and sinister.
“I’ve never read another piece like it,” Florida-born theatre maker and performer Lisa Louttit said.
“It’s like Downton Abbey because the audience is watching a mistress and a handmaid struggle within the class structure and pretension that is necessary, and Monty Python is the sense of absurd comedy and the ridiculous because it has a sense of heightened playful language that creates the world.
“Then there’s also this sense of dark foreboding as the women work to outdo each other and it turns out their pretensions may be their own undoing.”
Louttit said the language was stylised and witty and delivering the lines was sometimes tricky.
“It is quick-paced and motivations change on a dime so it’s quite a challenge: it’s not one of those plays where you can drop a line and find your way back,” she said.
Luckily the two leads – Louttit (mistress) and Taryn Ryan (handmaid) – have a great rapport after working together previously on Louttit’s Perth directorial debut, Porto.
“Taryn did musical theatre at WAAPA and there is something in the musical theatre technique that lends itself to being able to have the skill set for this language and the sense of timing and delivery,” Louttit said.
She worked in New York for most of her adult life but came to Perth about three years ago to live with her Aussie partner.
“It is definitely different here to the USA, but I’ve always embraced change,” she said.
“My absolute favourite thing here is the sky: it’s clear and breathtaking and something I’m not used to, having lived in urban areas.”
When He Gets That Way is part of the annual Subiaco Theatre Festival running throughout June.
Taryn Ryan and Lisa Louttit from When He Gets That Way.