The Reluctant Shopper | The BMA Review

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The Reluctant Shopper

Column: In Review   |   Date Published: Wednesday, 26 June 13   |   Author: Rory McCartney   |  

The Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre
Wed-Sat June 19-29

Now ‘reluctant’ and ‘shopper’ are two words that rarely go together these days, as the welter of mid-year sales sweeps the ACT again. (Try getting between my daughter and a ‘bargain’ Fossil handbag and you could be endangering your safety.) Prolific Canberran playwright Bruce Hoogendoorn’s works have examined societal issues ranging from climate change to internet dating, usually with a bizarre twist. His latest offering follows this pattern, taking a well-known phenomenon and examining it through the prism of his imagination.

The Reluctant Shopper took its inspiration from the stimulus packages the Federal Government adopted during the GFC. However, in the plot, consumer confidence is inflated not by government action but by unscrupulous business people. A local business council blackmails Sam (Brendan Kelly), a wealthy but immoral tax avoider, to get him to spend madly in small businesses which are doing it tough. When the victim proves reluctant to part with his cash, wheeler-dealer Barry (Rob de Fries) from the council recruits shopaholic Lisa (Kimberley Balaga) to pair up with Sam to encourage him to overcome his tight-fisted approach and get the economy moving again. Sam loses his inhibitions about spending when he sees Lisa in ‘the dress’. However, in a surprising twist, Lisa’s encouragement is so successful that Barry feels guilty that a gold digger is taking too much advantage of his man.

Kelly fills the part of Sam capably, expressing well the varying faces of an outraged scrooge and smitten lover as the plot unfolds. Elanie Noon displays her versatility in switching between the parts of bubbly gift shop owner and the ruthless, opportunistic businesswoman who dreamed up the blackmail scheme. Kimberley shines as the girl who possesses champagne tastes on a beer budget and shows that shopping really can be an aphrodisiac. However, Rob de Fries steels the show as the blackmailer with a conscience; his lines earned a lot of the laughs in what is a very witty play. The audience also appreciated Barry and Sam’s wrestling over a book stand and Sam and Lisa’s ‘wrestling’ in the fitting room. Set designer Wayne Shepherd’s ‘Sale Sale Sale’ banners provided a simple but effective backdrop for the action, aided by Kelley McGannon’s striking red lighting effects.

There’s human folly aplenty on show in the play, which Hoogendoorn directed as well as wrote. The plot displays greed in its various forms: the businessman out to boost sales through threats, the shopper’s addiction to material goods and Sam’s dual qualities of miserliness and willingness to avoid tax. He’s also a weak character, whose tight-fisted behaviour falls flat when he’s confronted by a pretty face. Most of the characters undergo striking changes in outlook during the play, at least temporarily. As for the ending, you’ll still have a couple of days to catch the play after this edition hits the streets.


Posted on November 12th 2013 in Reviews

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