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Misery Loves Company - KXT on Broadway (NSW)

Written by Isabella Reid. Directed by Mathew Lee. Presented by Legit Theatre Co

One part dark comedy, one part Irish folksong, ten parts larger-than-life characters, this debut play is feckin' packed with heart and humour

Reviewed by Justin Clarke

KXT on Broadway, Ultimo

Until 18th May, 2024

Funerals are a tricky business. How do you properly send off a life lived, particularly when your family is inherently dysfunctional? Misery Loves Company, a new play by Isabella Reid sees a family gather to mourn and celebrate the life of a mother, a daughter, a sister and an aunt. In Northern Ireland, 1977, a calm peace in the middle of The Troubles sees a moment in time that is universal for all who attend the KXT Theatre; death is the only guarantee in life. How a family comes together to see a life off however is, as Reid tells us, never a guaranteed perfect outcome…especially when your family are all feckin’ mad.

Told through the narration of the town’s priest Father John (Michael Yore), we see the Glynne family gather to mourn and celebrate the life of Daphne. We quickly learn she’s remembered for her passion for swing-dancing classes, her collection of brooches, and a recent exploration into the world of lesbianism. With the incorporation of folk music at the beginning of the piece, the Irish setting explodes outwards into storytelling that is brutally honest whilst separating the world of the Glynne family from oppression of The Troubles happening outside their walls.

Misery Loves Company cast, KXT on Broadway (2024). Photos by Clare Hawley.

Similar to the veins of Martin McDonagh, Reid funnels a hefty dose of dark humour into the pages of her writing. There’s a definite dry Irish wit instilled into the words of her characters, which is performed with zest from the entire cast. Yore’s spot on comic-timing utilising the burnt walls of the house that has a backstory all of its own, and an oddly stuffed duck set the stage for a comedy of errors to take place. Unsurprisingly, the KXT Theatre is packed on opening night.

The collection of characters on stage range in the size and magnitude of their personalities. From the dementia ridden Pa George (Mark Langham), to Lib Campbell’s Cicelia (in an always hilarious performance), the energetically mischievous Ernie (Clay Crighton) and the snarky Dolores (played with gusto by Linda Nicholls-Gidley), the eclectic cast of characters never feels overwhelming.

Mathew Lee’s direction ensures the ensued chaos throughout runs smoothly as the cast of ten work their way throughout Ruby Jenkins’ superbly decorated set. Moments of utter hilarity and one liners are balanced with moving moments of folk song, giving Misery an essence of being a ‘play with songs’. Underneath it all, there’s a fragility at the core of the family unit that needs to come to light by the closing scenes.

rests on the notion are the most important connection we have.

Leading the family unit is Annie Stafford’s Jackie, with a thickly drawn Northern Irish accent - props to dialect coach Felicity Jurd - Stafford is a rock throughout the turmoil and razor sharp remarks taken place over the coffin of her mother. Rachel Seeto’s Niamh and Campbell’s Cicelia offer warring cousins that are unsurprisingly better as a team when a misplaced use of “Irish” tea comes into play. The addition of Teale Howie’s Richard Nixon impressionist Jasper and his subsequent infatuation with Cicelia is rib-crackingly portrayed thanks in part of Tyler Fitzpatrick’s lighting design. Left in the background, Paul Grabovac’s Henry is lost in oncoming delusions of grandeur and importance amidst the loss of his sister. Among the madness, Lincoln Elliott’s Gus offers interludes of Irish folk song at the beginning of the production, as well as making appearances throughout with fast fingers on a lute that lifts the piece when needed.

There are lulls in the middle of the piece, where some storylines struggle to go places they intend. Some characters are left wanting more and instead simply fill the space left by others who take a portion of the scene. With a cast of ten, there can be challenges in balancing an ensemble piece without one or two taking over the whole, particularly when you have gifted actors who have carved their comedic chops so sharply.

What we are left with at the end of the eventual climax of chaos is a family who are grieving. We’re reminded that coming together to mourn a life will eventually lead to shared experiences that that life had on each and every person. Even Pa George manages to express himself through song and symbols, highlighting how the beauty of a life can still rise, like a tree, between the grief of ones loss. Misery Loves Company rests on the notion that humour as a coping mechanism can only go so far, and that family - despite their faults, whether chosen or tied by blood - are the most important connection we have.



Playwright - Isabella Reid (she/her)

Director - Mathew Lee (he/him)

Assistant Director - Violette Ayad (she/her)

Lighting Designer - Tyler Fitzpatrick (she/her)

Set & Costume Designer - Ruby Jenkins (she/her)

Sound & Music Designer - Clare Hennessy (she/they)

Dialect Coach - Felicity Jurd (she/her)

Stage Manager - Alex Liang (they/them)

Promotional Photography – Clare Hawley (she/her)

Producer - Tom Hanaee (he/him)

Cast -  Lib Campbell (she/her), Clay Crighton (they/them), Lincoln Elliott (he/him), Paul Grabovac (he/him), Teale Howie (he/him), Mark Langham (he/him), Linda Nicholls-Gidley (she/her), Rachel Seeto (she/they), Annie Stafford (she/her) and Michael Yore (he/him).


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