As I see it, Single Ladies is a variant of a shaggy dog story … in more ways than one. This world premiere production marks the return in this COVID-19 era of Red Stitch Theatre. Set in the inner city Melbourne suburb of Collingwood, three disparate women with issues connect over a missing pooch.
Lilike (Caroline Lee) is a ball breaker. Originally from Hungary via Yugoslavia, she enjoys being loud and militant … stirring the pot. Twice married with a son, Anne (Andrea Swifte) used to have acreage but has moved into an apartment. A serial dater, she has picked up a little something she would rather not have.
Anne meets Lil at a cafe to discuss a dog named Puckle that Anne was minding for a druggie friend. It appears that Anne took the animal home with her, but after some rather uncomfortable chit chat Lil acknowledges she is willing to return the hound. So, with that in mind, the pair make their way back to her place, only to discover that Puckle has escaped.
Rachel (Jem Lai) is a young lesbian woman who hasn’t gotten over her ex. She lives in the same apartment complex as Anne and has crossed swords with Lil before (in fact Lil cost her her job). Last night Rachel saw a dog. Now this unlikely triumvirate is brought together. It was never going to be a smooth or straight forward encounter.
With a minimalist set (not much more than six multicoloured, multi panel floor to ceiling screens and a bit of dirt), the actors build a connection with the audience. Of course, that also has a lot to do with the words on the page. The playwright is Michele Lee.
I was particularly impressed by Caroline Lee, who gives voice to the bad girl of the piece. She transports herself into the skin of a woman whose whole life has seemingly been about not playing by the rules. On the other hand, Anne is a bit of a chameleon and Andrea Swifte brings that to the fore. In a sharp contrast, Jem Lai’s Rachel seems perpetually on the verge of a breakdown and she can barely contain a secret.
Director Bagryana Popov ensures the characters’ personality traits are exploited to best effect. The audience reaction is palpable, with frequent bursts of laughter punctuating the dialogue. There’s no better sign that Single Ladies has done its job. An hour without interval, it is playing at Red Stitch Theatre until 14th March, 2021.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Selling Kabul (Red Stitch Theatre) – theatre review
- Wittenoom (Red Stitch Theatre) – theatre review
- A Simple Act of Kindness (Red Stitch Theatre) – theatre review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.