Published on April 11th, 2012 | by Vikesh Godhwani0
Becky Shaw: Deliciously Dark Comedy
Masquerade Theatre Company’s new production, Becky Shaw, promises to be a real treat for theatre fans this April. Watching a first run of the play, Vikesh Godhwani confirms that director anthony bezzina and the strong ensemble of actors are doing everything to live up to the hype.
With an eye for good scripts, anthony bezzina has once again chosen brilliant material to direct. Gina Gionfriddo’s Becky Shaw is a dark comedy that is “wickedly written”, as bezzina puts it.
It is about the events that unfold after newlyweds Suzanna and Andrew set up Suzanna’s best friend, the sharp-tongued Max, with Andrew’s awkward and seemingly fragile co-worker, Becky. After the blind date gets off to a shaky start, things start to go downhill, causing mutual desires to resurface and resulting in events that completely change the dimensions of the relationships between the characters.
Although Becky Shaw is about a blind date gone wrong, the date itself is never actually performed on stage – the audience only hears about it from the different characters. This will have viewers on the edge of their seats as more and more revelations are gradually made about the night that changed everything.
The play is tremendously enjoyable due to its sharp wit and electrifying speed, and its psychological depth is not to be overlooked either – it has a strong voice on issues such as love, money, relationships and the ethical weight of the little white lie. “Lying is the most humane thing you can do,” says Suzanna throughout the play. Laura Best, who plays her, says the act of lying moves the plot forward: “If the characters were honest with each other, there would be no play.”
The strength of Becky Shaw ultimately lies in the actors as it is about the complex relationships between the multilateral characters. “They all have something to hide,” says bezzina. All the actors were given the opportunity to really dig deep, as all of the characters have a certain intensity to them. Not one of them is flat, and this seems to have attracted the cast to the script.
Best finds it interesting to play someone in two different time periods; one minute she is seen grieving her father’s death and the next as Andrew’s new bride. “I wish I could do that myself; go back and see how I acted during important events in my life,” says Best.
Malcolm Galea plays Andrew, a 31 year-old writer, which isn’t much of a stretch for him, and therefore more enjoyable than challenging. However, what he finds interesting is the way the character targets vulnerable women and abandons them once they have overcome their weaknesses.
Andrew is presented as the most sensitive character but Galea thinks that much of it is put on. “I don’t think he really cries at porn. I think he is the type of man who would want people to think that about him,” he says. In the play, Suzanna and Max’s mother Susan quips, “Goodness and incompetence too often go hand in hand in men,” and Galea certainly agrees. He comes to the conclusion that Andrew is a bad writer, saying, “Good writers don’t get involved; they observe.”
Becky Shaw, the title character, played by Isabel Warrington, is perhaps the most fascinating of them all. A sense of anticipation is built around her character as she is talked about before her entrance, so that once she actually appears, the audience is captivated by her. She might be described as vulnerable by the other characters but Warrington compares Becky to a child. Perhaps this is why the audience’s attention is immediately directed at her the moment she steps onto the stage.
“She needs to have her needs met and she’ll do anything to get her way,” says Warrington, implying that underneath that vulnerable front Becky might even be described as a manipulator. She says exploring a character that is unlike anyone she’s ever played before is an interesting process and that the script has given her a good insight into who Becky really is.
Toni Attard plays Max, who immediately judges Becky not only because she is overdressed for their blind date, but also because she cannot afford a car or a mobile phone. Later on in the play, he tells Suzanna “That woman is not my equal”, considering money and class to be the sole determinants of a person’s worth.
Perhaps his harsh exterior is a result of insecurity, a trait of the nouveau riche of hav, after he was adopted into a wealthy family. “He is macho, a chauvinist and never ready to open up, except to Suzanna, whom he grew up with,” explains Attard. “He uses all these defence mechanisms and he loses a lot by the end of it. I think that the audience will feel that he deserved all he got.”
Even though Max is the most evidently dark character, they all appear to have hidden agendas except perhaps for the matter of fact Susan, played by Sue Scantlebury. Although she suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses a walking stick, Susan is ironically the only character who doesn’t seem to need emotional support.
After her husband’s death, she effortlessly glides into a new relationship with no problems whatsoever. bezzina says that he wanted to play down her sickness because ultimately she is a strong woman who makes some of the most astute observations in the whole play.
Becky Shaw is definitely one to watch this month, as it casts an incredibly entertaining light on human relationships. Its refreshingly dark sense of humour and shocking plot twists will have the audience in fits and leave them with plenty to talk about.
Becky Shaw is on at St. James Cavalier on 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29 April. For tickets visit www.sjcav.org, call 21223200 or visit the box office at St. James Cavalier, Valletta.