In an industry obsessed with youth and beauty and the next hot thing – what happens to the performer as they age? Theatre is largely about energy – the energy exchange between director and performer, then performer and audience. And it appears the stayers in the industry are those, who may not necessarily have the most “talent,” but those who have the most stamina. Performers – more than any other artists rely on their bodies and voices – which inevitably change over time. And the choice is to evolve (? – yes a suspect choice of word) eg Madonna, Nicole Kidman, U2 or to age with your fans Jacki Weaver, Colleen Dewhurst.

In the case of Turns, Reg Livermore and Nancye Hayes have chosen to age with their fans – and create a show which is for their generation, about their generation.

Like a grand, antique kaleidoscope, Turns shifts and changes between performance styles and tradition – erring on the side of vaudeville and cabaret. With sufficient referencing to pantomime and music hall, the story follows a fading theatre star Marjory Montcrieffe (Nancye Hayes), mother to doting and long suffering son Alistair Montcreiffe (Reg Livermore). And they take it in ‘Turns’ to share the limelight – the first half dominated by Hayes – and the second half focuses on Livermore.

In the tradition of “Mother and Son” – this is pitched as a comedy of the “Carry On” variety – but in reality the themes are substantially darker than the form more reminiscent of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”

Unfortunately I am without the nostalgia that much of this show relies on and I appreciate the history of both performers – their place in Australian Theatre as performers and trail blazers. I am sure those who remember the days of Rocky Horror, Sweet Charity etc will delight in this well-produced vehicle for these performance to do a couple of Turns on stage. For those who are fans- I’m sure they’ll delight in the trip down memory lane – if not the absolute stamina, strength and physical agility of Hayes and Livermore.

This is not a show that speaks to a younger audience ignorant of their past performances/productions (the cruelty of live performance is its lost record) but I don’t think all productions need to as I believe for every play there is an audience.

It is evident from this production that comedy is very much generational, as tastes change and taboo transforms into mainstream society and the element of surprise is harder to find. Though I didn’t find it funny – I found the stamina impressive and it was more like cracking open a time capsule, than a rollicking, knee slapping time at the theatre. More mature theatre goers I’m sure will delight in seeing two of their well-loved, long-standing favourites on stage together.

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