Review by Justin Clarke
Written by Tracey Trinder, directed by Francesca Savige
After a long and tumultuous journey, KILLING KATIE finally made its premiere at the Ensemble Theatre on Tuesday evening. With the sad and sudden loss of its writer, Tracey Trinder, Ensemble Theatre honours her memory by staging a hilarious and fierce comedy. Trinder’s unique voice gives us a sharp observation on the world of book clubs, competition between women and the power plays behind façades in relationships.
KILLING KATIE’s story is largely narrated by the peacekeeping, guilt-ridden Linda (Bron Lim) who opens the setting with a pronouncement of guilt, staring down the audience and bringing us into the world of the play. We are introduced to the announcement of a book being released by former book club Queen Bee, Robyn (Kate Raison), called Killing Katie: Confessions of a Book Club. Sending Linda and her fitness obsessed friend Sam (Georgina Symes) into a frenzy of anxiety, we are then led between past and present as we venture through the book club’s story. All we know is that it somehow revolves around the exuberant, carefree Katie (Chantelle Jamieson), and that olives are definitely not allowed to be served as hors d’oeuvres anymore.
Trinder’s play is written with a sharp wit that leads well into moments of humour, balanced with insightful discussions on women in literature and society. The depth to which Trinder writes her characters is well adapted by director Francesca Savige, as she brings a fully formed character to each of the women on stage. What could easily have been two dimensional caricatures of women in a book club is granted depth, humour and unexpected twists through Trinder’s clear fondness for themes of alliances and guilt.
Harnessing a neon pink ‘past’ and ‘present’ sign to aid the storytelling, Tobhiyah Stone Feller’s set design uses the décor of Robyn’s living room to reflect her stale and rigid lifestyle – complete with porcelain ducks that are “ironically chic”, according to Katie.
The play itself has a bittersweet taste to it, as it was Trinder’s first and last. If this is what Trinder’s mind had on offer, it would have been a captivating journey to see where else she could have gone in her career as a playwright.
As the titular Katie, Chantelle Jamieson brings a vibrancy that fills the theatre. Aided by Feller’s costume design, the juxtaposition of Katie’s exuberance amongst the women is clearly portrayed through the out of place outfits she wears to the monthly book club. Underneath Katie’s laughter and lack of filter, Jamieson brings a deep loneliness and a desire to be accepted to the character.
Katie Raison plays the stoicism of Robyn perfectly, indulging in the turmoil she creates between her powers as leader of the book club, and her friendships with Sam and Linda. Her inability to eject Katie from the book club plays for successful conflict and humour in the subtle digs disguised as discussions on famous literary female characters. Sex and the City, Pride and Prejudice and the Bard’s Romeo and Juliet feature amongst these.
Bron Lim’s Linda and Georgina Symes’ Sam act as anchors for the story as we follow their anxious journey to discovering what exactly Robyn has written about in her book. Lim brings a softness to her often disregarded character, and a keenness for quote collecting which she uses to diffuse tense situations. Symes revels in the manic lifestyle of Sam and her inability to ignore her phone.
Valerie Bader’s Angela brings most of the laughs through the quick witted and sharp-tongued mother of Robyn. Worming her way into the book club by default, (seeing as Robyn lives under her roof) Angela’s quips are largely at her daughter’s expense and received howls of laughter. Bader demonstrates an experience in her comic timing that brings Trinder’s infectious laughter to life on stage.
Some of the staging inKILLING KATIE seemed slightly askew, which at times resulted in missed scenes depending on where you sat in the audience. Savige attempted to harness the Ensemble Theatre’s intimate staging effectively, but this oftenmeant actors couldn’t be seen, or frustrating blocking took us out of the world of the play.
The play itself has a bittersweet taste to it, as it was Trinder’s first and last. If this is what Trinder’s mind had on offer, it would have been a captivating journey to see where else she could have gone in her career as a playwright. KILLING KATIE is a riotous night at the theatre for those seeking big laughs and a platter of literary hors d’oeuvres.
Images credit: Lisa Tomasetti
KILLING KATIE: Confessions of a Book Club is now playing at the Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli. Tickets and information can be found here.
FRANCESCA SAVIGE DIRECTOR
WARWICK DODDRELL ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
JANE FITZGERALD DRAMATURG
TOBHIYAH STONE FELLER SET & COSTUME DESIGNER
KELSEY LEE LIGHTING DESIGNER
DARYL WALLIS COMPOSER & SOUND DESIGNER
LAUREN TULLOH STAGE MANAGER
ERIN SHAW ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER
RENATA BESLIK COSTUME SUPERVISOR
SCOTT WITT MOVEMENT CONSULTANT
KRYSTELLE QUARTERMAIN STAGE MANAGEMENTSECONDMENT
RUNNING TIME: 90 MINS NO INTERVAL
ANGELA WINTERS VALERIE BADER
KATIE KLINE CHANTELLE JAMIESON
LINDA CHAMBERS BRON LIM
ROBYN WINTERS KATE RAISON
SAM ANDREWS GEORGINA SYMES
TRACEY TRINDER PLAYWRIGHT’S AWARD
ENSEMBLE THEATRE IS PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THE INAUGURAL TRACEY TRINDER PLAYWRIGHT’S AWARD
The award is for an outstanding unproduced comedy or comedy drama written by a woman playwright including a trans and/or gender-diverse playwright. The Tracey Trinder Playwright’s Award encourages women writers with a focus on comedy. Tracey was a stage and screenwriter and had a unique voice in the world of comedy.
This award honours her name and her commitment to women’s writing. To honour Tracey’s memory, you can donate towards the award. All donations over $2 are tax deductible and will go directly towards developing a new Australian comedy by a woman playwright.
For more information, please visit ensemble.com.au/support-us orcontact our Philanthropy & Partnerships Manager Stephen Attfield on 02 8918 3400 or email@example.com
The award consists of a $7,500 cash prize, a development workshop, and a full production as part of Ensemble Theatre’s annual season. Details of the award, submission guidelines and entry dates will be available on our website from February 2022.