It’s been a long time between drinks for Helen Morse between flashing her boozies in Stone in 1974 (or was it the other bikie chick?) and appearing in Tim Winton’s “Signs of Wife” at Perth’s State Theatre. Well it is a long time between drinks if you disregard the hideous Bryan Brown era, which I guess we all do, and the most tedious period of Oz film revival covering Caddie and Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Signs of Life is supposedly a continuation of Winton’s attempt at a Mills and Boon romance - Dirt Music. Well, bad romance is how Dirt Music appeared to me from the only 5 pages I could get through. With lines like”Georgie (Morse’s character earlier in life) stood out there longer than was comfortable, until her breasts ached from the chill .” – perhaps Dirt Music is a sequel to Stone? No doubt her bodice is ripped in future scenes. It’s a fat fucker of a book, so you’d hope so.
Now most Tim Winton fans will want to know one thing first – the footwear situation. Did the dude strip off his Converse or DBs, saying, as Georgie does in Dirt Music, “Bugger it, why not?” as she fairly implausibly lays her togs on the stranger’s truck, lets go his dog and has a nudie swim? That’s Dirt Music I’m talking about by the way. Nothing as interesting as a nude swim happens in Run for Your Wife the stage sequel. The new, the very suspiciously new ripple sole desert boots stayed on. Unfortunate because that would have been the only interesting thing about this very, very boring piece of corporate theatre.
At least with Rising Lunch there was a superb set and the cast made some determined headway through the Winton dead weight script.
Signs of Wife had none of this, but does have:
A year 12 final year drama style set that looks so cheap that you always felt it must be about to be drawn aside to reveal some luscious interior. It never does.
The trademark Cherry pedestrian direction. Surely there must be some way of ameliorating Winton’s habit of leaving vast lengths of time where characters have to literally stand staring doing fuck all.
A fucking kite. Again.
A ghost husband. Ljuke bet me that the aboriginal male character (probably the pick of the bunch payed by Tom E. Lewis) would turn out to be a ghost. Sorry Ljuke, you lose – but you sort of win because there was a ghost husband. A fucking ghost husband! It’s hard to critique George Shevtsov’s barefoot ghost husband, because he spends the majority of the play standing motionless and staring. He really does!
Morse being fairly ordinary.
Pauline Whyman playing the implausible.
Characters that you don’t care about.
Revealed secrets that are worth nothing when shown.
Awkward pause dogged dialogue.
There is no tension of any kind. Shouldn’t there at least be the tiniest hint of sexual tension between the leads? Why does she want him to stay? Her husband’s white ghost willie surely can’t be doing the job after 6 weeks underground. Can’t we at least have the slightest hint of some horizontal ebony and ivory in the future? The possiblity of a hint?
I wanted this to be bad, obviously, but unfortunately it was just really, really boring. Why does Winton feel he needs to do corporate theatre. What’s in it for the dude?
It’s hard to think of anything good to say about Signs of Wife. One or two half funny lines. Adequate lighting. The fact that there’s no intermission so you can get out quick. And the theatre is, as ever, lovely inside. And Max Kaye was there too.