Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica - Ensemble Theatre
Written by David Williamson. Directed by Mark Kilmurry.
Reviewed by Mary Anne Reid
Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli
10 Mar 2023 - 29 Apr 2023
- Art and music combine in this updated production of Williamson's two-hander -
Anyone in the mood for some witty repartee, a shoot-out between county music and classical, and an odd-couple romance should hurry to buy tickets for Ensemble Theatre’s Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica, a new production of the play by David Williamson.
Georgie Parker plays Monica, a middle-aged second violin in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra who has left her job due to repetitive strain injury and now spends a lot of time at home. Loquacious tradesman Gary, played by Glenn Hazeldine, arrives to quote for a kitchen renovation whose end date becomes a point of friction between the two.
If the blue collar/white collar set up sounds like a bit of a cliché, it is elevated by Williamson’s very funny dialogue and the wonderful comedic timing of Parker and Hazeldine. It’s a pleasure watching these two skilful performers having such fun with Williamson’s script, under the direction of Ensemble’s Mark Kilmurry.
The action is set entirely in Monica’s lounge room (apart from one very funny scene in a pub), with minimal variation in lighting and costume. It is the music which propels the production of this two-hander, inviting the audience into a battle over the merits of country music versus classical. Gary (AKA one-time Golden Guitar nominee Rhinestone Rex) and Monica draw their mobile phones out in a blue-tooth duel to get their selection onto the lounge room stereo, treating us to a procession of tunes from Tamworth country music stars, alongside excerpts from Mahler, Bach and Stravinsky. Both characters are passionate about music and equally intolerant of each other’s tastes.
Images by Prudence Upton
As the onion layers are peeled back, the protagonists find they are both lonely and wrestling with hurt from previous relationships. Monica is angry about the loss of her job and identity as a classical performer; Gary is struggling with the guilt of having let down his wife and son. Can two people with such different backgrounds and tastes people find enough in common to get together?
This is a romantic comedy of the later years. If you’re looking for up-to-the-moment commentary on gender politics and the culture wars, this is not the play for you. It is a straight-up take on the perennial odd-couple genre, with more to say about music and art than about gender politics.
A production of Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica was staged at the Ensemble in 2010, with the same cast (under the direction of Sandra Bates). The music has been updated to include some of the new talents of Australia’s country music scene circa 2023, and Williamson has made some edits to the old script (acknowledging Diana Simmonds for some suggestions).
If the audience at my session is any indication, this production of Rex Rhinestone and Miss Monica is likely to put a smile on people’s faces and have them walking out of the theatre ready to discuss whether they prefer country or classical, and whether you can actually like both.
Playwright David Williamson AO
Director Mark Kilmurry
Set & Costume Designer Veronique Benett
Lighting Designer Trudy Dalgleish
Sound Designer Daryl Wallis
Stage Manager Ruth Hollows
Costume Supervisor Renata Beslik
Glenn Hazeldine Georgie Parker
Rachel Gordon Matt Minto
Tony Cogin Ruth Hollows Mark Kilmurry Ylaria Rogers