Friendships are delicate things and they can grow brittle with age as people set into their ways and rhythms. So when a new voice gets injected into an old script, it can make or break the very foundations of the friendship. In this case, it even ends in death.
Robyn (Kate Raison) had been the proud conductor of her friends’ book club for years before Sam (Georgina Symes) insensitively invited a new member, youthful, vivacious, and opinionated Katie (Chantelle Jamieson). Tensions and hackles were quickly raised when Katie’s outspoken nature rocked the book club’s boat in more ways than one but did she really deserve to die for her social sins? Linda (Bron Lim) thought it was all in the past until an unassuming invitation to Robyn’s book launch arrived; Killing Katie, did it have to be so obvious?
Tracey Trinder’s script was a real romp through the complicated dynamics of adult friendships including new acquaintances, old friends, and even the adult mother/daughter relationship. Judgements, praise, and snarky digs were bandied about with ease between these fully-formed characters each with their own lives and unique baggage. These women were recognisable and highly relatable, brought to life by comprehensive direction from Francesca Savige. While there was room to slip into absurdity, Savige kept the humour and tragedy grounded, allowing drama but not melodrama to shape the story.
Set largely in Robyn’s living room of the house she shared with her mother Angela (Valerie Bader), the set design by Tobhiyah Stone Feller was quirky with key details like duck wall decals and a crocheted pillow to draw out Robyn’s outdated perspective, but perhaps there were a few too many stool rearrangements. Kelsey Lee’s lighting design was simple and realistic with some pops of fun in the bar and book launch scenes, while the sound design by Daryl Wallis included some real girl power bops.
The strongest aspect of the production were the performances for the way each actor fully realised their character and brought their whole story to each scene. Linda was a soft pushover but, in the direct-to-audience narration, Lim demonstrated her growth in the years after Katie’s death. Her relationship with high-strung Sam was believable with an easy understanding between two very different women. Jamieson’s Katie was loud and boisterous, filling the stage with her laughter and quick wit. While she clearly rubbed the book club the wrong way, the audience was on her side. But the crowd favourites were definitely Angela and Robyn for the dry digs Angela repeatedly made at Robyn’s expense. Both Raison and Bader performed their prickly partnership with good timing and genuine ill-humour.
The best friendships are open to change and transformation as people grow through the years. But change can be ugly if it comes all at once. At least in this book club’s case there was a bittersweet ending to their tart story.
Killing Katie: Confessions of a Book Club is running at Ensemble Theatre from January 9th – February 26th
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