Neil Simons’s Rumours – Review

Maitland Repertory Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s “Rumours” is indeed something to talk about. Directed by Robert Comber, this production – despite involving for the characters serious bodily injury and gunshot wounds – will have you laughing the entire way through, and I had the privilege of viewing the performance on its opening night.

The play opens with a scene of panic. What was meant to be a lovely dinner party to celebrate a politician’s 10-year wedding anniversary has already been turned on its head. A reluctance for the truth to come out causes lies upon lies to be told as each character is introduced into the fold. In the end, the truth can no longer be contained! Although the audience can enjoy the dramatic irony of characters being told ridiculous stories, the real story of what occurred before the play opens remains a mystery for the whole play. As summed up perfectly by the character Ken Bevans (played by Eamonn O’Reilly), “No one has heard the real story yet. No one knows the real story.”

The stage design for Comber’s performance is a quaint and realistic living room setting, which allowed the actors to interact with each other closely and comfortably. The lighting similarly worked well for the play, providing a warm atmosphere perfect for the setting of a politician’s dinner party. Costumes were also very suited for the production and tied all the visuals on stage together nicely.

The cast was made up of 10 very keen actors with a variety of acting backgrounds. Although the play is set in New York, accents were employed in this production to portray a British setting, and the majority of the actors performed these accents flawlessly. These accents gave an “upper-class” feel to the characters and made us feel like we were peering into the secret lives of the wealthy. The script of the play is also very fast-paced, and although there were times in the performance when the pace dropped, the energy provided by the actors ensured that there was never a dull moment.

Of the 10 cast members, there were plenty of standout performances. Although some of the performances were either too melodramatic or one-dimensional, the farcical nature of the play forgave a lot of this. As such, it was easy to enjoy these performances and appreciate the energy and enthusiasm that the actors were bringing to the mayhem on the stage. The most chaotic moment in the performance was the final beat from act one, where each actor could not be faulted in their portrayal of despair, stress, confusion, and hunger.

There were, however, two performers who really shone in the opening night production. Matt Robinson (who played Leonard Cummings) created much of the humour with his expressive face, physicality, and comedic timing. His words were articulate, his lines were funny, and he played his character superbly. An absolute pleasure to watch on stage. Another standout performer was Jacqui Weston (who played PC Conklin). Her powerful body language and unbreaking eye contact created a strong stage presence. Despite having very few lines and not a great deal of stage time, her performance was compelling.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, one of my favourite moments from this performance was when one of the actors had forgotten their lines. They did not for a moment lose composure nor falter from their character, and the moment was able to be worked through with help from fellow cast mates. It was a moment of the cast becoming an ensemble, right before the audience’s eyes. A truly unique thing to experience, and a credit to the cast and director for cultivating the actor’s relationship.

“Rumours” is a gun-blazing farcical play of “tongues wagging and tales flying”. Comber’s production indeed does the play justice and, even in the face of opening night challenges, I would strongly recommend anyone to go and see it. The cast do a wonderful job at portraying the chaos that is in this play and it was an absolute treat to experience their performances.

Neil Simon’s Rumours – Maitland Repertory Theatre runs for three weekends only with the following sessions to choose from:-

  • Friday 28 April 2023 – 8:00 PM
  • Saturday 29 April – 8:00 PM
  • Friday 05 May 2023 – 8:00 PM
  • Saturday 06 May 2023 – 8:00 PM
  • Sunday 07 May 2023 – 2:00 PM Matinee Performance
  • Saturday 13 May 2023 – 8:00 PM
  • Sunday 14 May 2023 – 2:00PM Matinee Performance

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