Review: The Marriage Proposal

By Amelie Lambie Proctor

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Mark Hillery Arts Centre is once again transformed and the flat of Sarina, played by Louise Coggrave, and Natalia, played by Ayana De-Zoysa, is brought to life. Centre stage is a dining table, complete with a picture of mother and daughter and another of a cat, a plate of seeds, a champagne bottle and glasses. A small table with a kettle, mirror, coat stand and door are also dotted around the stage. The door did provide some problems in the performance as it is on wheels and so slid around making it hard to function.

Yibu Jin’s adaptation of Chekhov’s The Marriage Proposal has the audience in hysterics from start to finish! The laughter that erupts from the audience is constant throughout the whole piece and not at one point is any audience member disengaged. The three-person cast never let the energy of the play slip and they narrate the story in the most brilliantly comic way. The story focuses on two Shanghai families; a mother and daughter team, and a neighbour who asks the mother for her daughter’s hand in marriage. This farce is only one-act and each line seems to be more hilarious than the last, making this a play with no dull moment.

The laughter that erupts from the audience is constant throughout the whole piece and not at one point is any audience member disengaged

The set did the job perfectly and it successfully creates a sense of place. Coggrave opens the show in a turquoise dressing gown and pink hair rollers. She begins eating some seeds and within seconds, the audience is laughing, as she delivers a wonderfully comic performance. She does a tremendous job of conveying an over-friendly mother who welcomes in her next-door neighbour Peter played by Yibu Jin, and is delighted to learn that he wants to marry her daughter. Coggrave has marvellous stage presence and she engages the audience fantastically.

Coggrave has marvellous stage presence and she engages the audience fantastically

De-Zoysa, her daughter, enters and wildly funny conversations between her and Peter take place. They seem to go around and around in circles and at points you forget that a marriage proposal is Peter’s main intention! De-Zoysa brilliantly portrays a character who seems to only care for herself, echoed in her deadpan one liners which have the audience in hysterics! Jin blazingly portrays a nervous character who is going through a midlife crisis and is constantly having heart palpitations. Jin delivers comedic lines amazingly and the laughter just keeps coming. All three actors work well on stage together and all clearly understand the important elements that a farce comedy requires.

Unfortunately for Chekhov, he did not have access to the tech that exists today and this only would have made his production of The Marriage Proposal suffer because the use of lighting and projections in Jin’s production give so much to the play! The lighting choices made are pure brilliance. They add so much humour to the piece and again it is clear that as a director, Jin knows exactly how to stage a farce. The lights constantly and quickly changes from red to blue, depending on the mood of the character speaking. They change so frequently that it heightens the characters emotions and the moment and so makes them appear over the top and ridiculous, adding to the comedy. Eventually they turn to disco lights, bringing out the chaotic nature of the play. It is just absolutely hilarious!

Unfortunately, throughout the play the stage is lit in a harsh white light, which creates a colder atmosphere than is needed, however this is only a minor point. The standout moment though, was the projection of Natalia’s beloved cat, during an extremely amusing conversation about who has the best looking cat between Peter and herself, the projection only added to the humour.

All three actors work well on stage together and all clearly understand the important elements that a farce comedy requires

Overall, the play is extremely entertaining and highlights qualities that we all recognise in our own families and neighbours. The farce nature of the play is clearly understood by the director and production team, with water being thrown, bins being kicked over, seeds flying around the stage and cats called Pumpkin and Courgette. As seats emptied after the show had finished, audience members said that their stomachs hurt from so much laughter, and this is the best way to sum up this radiant production!

Image: Pitch Productions

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