Review: Social Climbers - LOLs and Fuzzies



“I come away for four days and I still get the wet patch.”

Yep, there is plenty of sex chatter to be had when six gal pals head off for a weekend tramp in Roger Hall's Social Climbers. It may have been written by a man, but you wouldn't know it by watching his recognisable characters play out on stage at the PumpHouse Theatre in Takapuna.

There is plenty of girl power in the between-scenes song choices alone, from Tina Turner to Beyonce.

The stand out performer though has to be Louise Wallace, whose brazen character Maxine creates a stir as soon as she enters the stage. Her teasing, spewing and ‘histrionics' are a welcome bit of mischief in the mix of slow-burning character and relationship development around her.

Maxine is joined by her well-cast teaching colleagues played by Lisa Chappell (of McLeod's Daughters fame), Darien Takle, Michaela Rooney and Michelle Leuthart. The colleagues, along with a reluctantly accompanying daughter (played by Donna Brookbanks), end up pegged in a Doc hut during a torrential downpour with nothing to do but read the Watchtower and swap recipes.

The laughs may be more quiet titters than LOLs but, as directed by Janice Finn, there is nothing lacking in the energy stakes. The dialogue is swift and punchy as though it's come straight out of Gilmore Girls. All the sulking, niggling and cajoling in the first act is obviously leading to a showdown of sorts, no doubt culminating with a resolution to be better friends and sing ‘Kumbaya' around the campfire.

But what isn't predictable is how I am on the verge of tears as Chappell's Susan struggles to deal with her husband leaving her. The entire audience seems to be holding its breath with me.

Another well-carried surge of emotion comes from Leuthart and Brookbanks' characters, the mother and daughter duo Emily and Sinead. Leuthart portrays the ‘doormat mum' role to a T and Brookbanks is believable as the assuming adult child. Her moaning about not having Wi-Fi indicates the late 1990s script has been updated.

At first I find Rooney a bit wooden as her counsellor character Anna, all forced words and accentuated vowels. But in Anna's meltdown scene she delivers convincingly and her character seems to relax with her from here.

Takle is a natural as Kath the loveable ‘old girl' of the group with her infectious laugh, “warm fuzzies” and habit of bedtime news reading. I find the 'sleep scene' in general is a worthy one. Kath's insomnia, Emily's hot flushes, Susan's snoring, Maxine's barfing, and Anna and Sinead's light-sleeping combines to paint a humorous and all-too-real image of what it must be like on a woman's sleepover.

Nick Greer's wooden cabin set, complete with bunks, stove and wooden table, and lit by Amber Molloy, looks great.

This may not be one for the lads – but your mum, your sister and your girlfriends should get a laugh out of this. Or the very least, some warm fuzzies.

-Theatreview

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