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The Sugar Mother


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The Sugar Mother

Dates: 01/09/2011 - 18/09/2011

Location: Metcalfe Playhouse


Adapted by John Senczuk from the fiction by Elizabeth Jolley
[Woman in a Lampshade and The Sugar Mother]


Presented by Janus Entertainment

Celia Christie Sistrunk
Leila's Mother Val Riches
Leila Sophie Kesteven
Daphne Anna Brockway
Young Man David McLeod
Director/Designer John Senczuk
Lighting Terry Wedding
Sound Jordan Gibbs
Stage manager Zane Alexander
Wardrobe Sacha Maboub


Read the script for The Sugar Mother


The Spirit of Jolley Returns, Rod Moran, The West Australian


It’s rare that a narrative is developed so well that we actually care about each person’s journey, however this is a play that did just that. ... Senczuk managed the intricate task of weaving the narrative to riveting effect, while maintaining the integrity of the original works. ...
Outstanding performances were given by several of the cast members. The young Sophie Kesteven, in her professional debut as the meek and mostly silent Leila, used non verbal skills to create a vulnerable and endearing young lady. Known only as Leila’s Mother, Val Riches found the perfect blend of both mischievous and manipulative to prey on the unsuspecting and good willed Edwin. The relationship between Edwin and Daphne (Anna Brockway) was one of the most amusing in the production and their dialogue flowed naturally....
And with that, the newest theatre in Northbridge put forward its second offering with the WA Premiere of The Sugar Mother. ... Although one can find thriving talent among Perth’s community theatre scene, the productions can be hit and miss. And, while we are often treated to large scale, big ticket shows, something in between has been lacking for discerning theatre goers in Perth. This is where the Metcalfe Playhouse and productions such as The Sugar Mother come into their own. Highly recommended!

     Julia Hern, Australian Stage On Line

‘The Sugar Mother’ is an authorised, skilful blend and adaptation by John Senczuk of Elizabeth Jolley’s short story ‘Woman in a Lampshade’ and her novel ‘The Sugar Mother’. …
Although this story is a couple of decades old, it could still happen again tomorrow. [The adaptation] has woven three or four very different and fascinating storylines together … brilliantly structured them to run in parallel, with even the dialogue and themes appearing to match.
The intercutting between the scenes runs on an analogous time scale, with each brief vista ranging from as short as a few seconds, to some scenes being a few minutes. This constant chopping and changing would normally be annoying but because of the clever script structure it rarely jarred.
The designer, John Senczuk, had several fixed locations around the stage, which the characters from very different scenes at times intermingled. Again the flow and the pace worked well with no confusion to the audience. With numerous entrances and exits the director had to ensure the cast had sharp and flawless timing. This style of acting and structure may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but helped blend the threads and emphasise the clashes in personality, the problems of stale love and the excitement of fresh intimacy. ...
This is an unusual type of production, however it is cleverly presented by both the ingenious script, which was very dark and yet filled with extraordinary wit. The well directed, generally strong cast brought alive Elizabeth’s rich characters. Strongly recommended to all students of English and theatre, there is a huge amount to be learnt from this unusual play.

Gordon the Optom

‘The Sugar Mother’ brings more of Elizabeth Jolley's eccentrics to the stage. The play draws on that rich vein of older female grotesques found in Patrick White's Miss Quodling and Miss Docker. Writer-director John Senczuk's script adroitly weaves two of Jolley's stories: Woman in a Lampshade and The Sugar Mother. There was a strong sense of focus in the tightly choreographed juxtaposition of contrasting scenes. … The parallel stories explore themes of loneliness, the illusions of love and a search for intimacy. … the Metcalfe Playhouse continues its important role in bringing Australian drama to Perth audiences.
     Robin Pacoe, The West Australian

It’s a complicated balancing act to keep all this going at once, and Senczuk (he also directs) by and large keeps the show on the road ... He is aided by some robust performances, especially from Brockway, who inhabits her increasing fraught character with some élan, Riches, who gets the maternal and the mercenary just about right, and Sistrunk, who manages to convince you that a young man might happily fall into bed with her, even if she’s got her lampshade on. ...
I liked it. Certainly enough to overlook its undeniable shortcomings. The acoustics were okay this time, the seats remain the best in the business, and while it isn’t going to set the world on fire ... it’s a perfectly worthwhile venture by the busiest, and bravest, theatre outfit in town.

     David Zampatti, From the Turnstiles

The Sugar Mother marries two of Jolley’s narratives – the novel of the same name and the short story Woman in a Lampshade – blending them into something new, and while it respects Jolley’s intentions, it is quite different from either source. Cleverly conceived and realised, it uses several eccentric, overblown characters to highlight the bizarreness of our expectations in relationships.
     Carol Flavell Neist, Arts Hub