Ripcord @ Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide 28/11/2020

After just three preview performances mid-November Covid 19 “pulled the ripcord” on the State Theatre Company of South Australia’s excellent production of Ripcord. Thankfully the run recommences with spaced seating on Tuesday 1st of December with nine extra sessions finally ending its run on Sunday 13th of December. This wonderful play is written by American David Lindsay-Abair and first performed off-Broadway in 2015. David Lindsay-Abair had previously won a Pulitzer Prize for the play Rabbit Hole in 2007.

Ripcord is set in a nursing home and involves a bet between 2 of the residents which escalates into an epic battle of wits. It might be a tried-and-true formula but putting two people of opposing temperaments in a room and watching them fight and practically kill each other is certainly fun to watch. Abby is played by Nancye Hayes and Marilyn is played by Carmel Johnson, Nancy and Carmel have over 100 years of experience in plays, musicals, films, and tv between them. There are four other minor roles in the play who are a wonderful support but the focus is clearly on these two magnificent main actors and the rapport between the two of them is amazing with Nancye Hayes deadpan delivery of acerbic barbs being a highlight.

Much like the film Back to the Future there is not a comic setup that isn’t balanced by a consistent payoff later in the play. During intermission, I reflected on the clues they had given us to work out where this play may go as it felt like a mystery I needed to dissect. The great acting, story, and direction combined into a very enjoyable evening. Special mention must be made of the incredible seamless revolving set changes throughout the performance designed by Ailsa Paterson

Before the play commenced, the director of the play and current director of our State Theatre Company, Mitchell Beutel introduced us to the play, thanked us for our attendance, and with his tongue firmly in his cheek he told us that the actors were like performing seals and would act better for us if we clapped and laughed loudly. This Hitchcockian contempt for actors was a thinly veiled ruse as Mitchell himself has acted in many stage performances himself and in fact, Nancy was the first person to give him a mainstage theatre job.

I highly recommend this dark comedy and look forward to the State Theatre Company’s recently announced 2021 season

Theatre Review By Richard De Pizzol

Ripcord is on now through to December 13 with tickets through BASS