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POSTED: 09 MAY 2012

Keep Smiling! The Housewife’s Guide, devised by Josipa Draisma, Christina Falsone, Carla Nirella, Alyssan Russell, Stephanie Son & Naomi White | Directed by Felicity Nicol

The Colour Blind Project & Tamarama Rock Surfers | Bondi Pavilion, Bondi Beach, Sydney | Until 19 May

The sunny yellow program features a deliriously happy looking woman, circa 1960s. Upon entering the Bondi Pavilion Theatre for Keep Smiling! The Housewife’s Guide, one is greeted by the six lovely housewives, making sure everyone is comfortably seated, a lucky few receiving a baked treat.

The set is a riot of gelato colours and 60s design, with a giant advertisement at the back exhorting the virtues of pleasing one’s man.

As the beautifully dressed, manically grinning housewives take their places, you know you’re in for some fun. What is less expected is the gradual breakdown of the façade, revealing the mess, the cracked plastic and the sadness beneath the gleaming surface.

The ladies — Mrs So-and-So (Josipa Draisma), Mrs Eyes-On-The-Prize (Stephanie Son), Mrs Making-Ends-Meet (Christina Falsone), Mrs Worldly-Of-Great-Estates (Carla Nirella), Mrs Practical-And-True (Alyssan Russell) and Miss Newcomer (Naomi White) — meet for choir practice and afternoon tea. Each bears a secret — or not-so-secret — burden.

The idea of six diverse women putting on a brave face for the public eye, set in the days of the conscription birthday ballot and enormous social change, is already interesting. Done with tongue firmly planted in cheek adds humour. But Keep Smiling! The Housewife’s Guide also throws in … Shakespeare?

You read that right. Each character holds the stage at some point, delivering a relevant monologue from various Shakespearean plays. What seems like a risky move works very well, and elevates the show from fluffy comedy or melodrama to innovative, gutsy theatre.

The play was created by the cast, so the actors know their work very well and the performances are excellent. Each of the women is more than capable of shifting from silly humour and perky dancing to commanding dramatic pieces.

There are some issues with pacing, however. This is a rather long show, and it could have used some editing and speeding up of some of the humorous parts, which would have lent even more strength to the serious scenes.

The names of the woman are amusing, but with each name being such a mouthful it did become cumbersome at times — “Good morning Mrs Worldy-Of-Great-Estates!” “Good morning Mrs Eyes-On-The-Prize!” A great idea, but at the expense of pace.

The design team deserves kudos for an excellent set, stunning costumes and brilliant lighting and sound.

It’s also worth mentioning that The Colour Blind Project, devised by performers Draisma and Son, has a focus on showcasing the wonderful range of multi-cultural talent in Australia. That a show like this not only provides strong roles for six women, but is inclusive of all backgrounds, is commendable. About bloody time, too.

Minor points aside, Keep Smiling! The Housewife’s Guide is hugely entertaining, with some poignant and powerful moments. It has also provided me with another contender for my favourite line of the year —“My meat is on the 5.02 to Cremorne!”

AND I got a lamington. Win-win.

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