‘Mother Clap’s Molly House’, written by Mark Ravenhill, with music by Matthew Scott, and directed by Louise Fischer for the New Theatre pulls no punches. After the initial shock of sex, whores, cross-dressers, gay sex parties, swinging role plays and whatever else Ravenhill can throw in, you learn how to breathe through it and work your way towards the messages of the play. Well, almost.
The New Theatre made a bold choice with ‘Mother Clap’s Molly House’. Obviously inserted into their season to capitalize on the large crowd converging for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, this production offers topic relevant theatre to celebrate the cause. Whilst the play will certainly provide that in spades, the ideas do get a little murky, lack some control and I’m not sure the themes are fully realized.
The play vacillates humorously between the seedy world of Victorian repression and the world of contemporary times. Using promiscuity as its motif, we enter a world where men are looking for uncomplicated sex, found mostly with each other. It’s not quite as simple as that. For instance, some characters are steadfast in their desire to be monogamous but find themselves dragged into an environment to please their partner’s need for random and frequent sex. We see boys trying to become men in a new world of opportunity and sexuality and others looking for gratification outside their marriage where, as some characters put it, ‘any hole will do’. It’s about identity, titillation, desire, fantasy, aspiration, change, family and fulfillment.
There are some good performances on offer. Deborah Jones (Mother Clap) conveys her character’s journey as conservative wife to enterprising business owner, where values are as fluid as the economy itself- change is much easier when money is involved. Garth Seville (Stephen/Edward/God) found the comedy in his archetypes, Steve Corner (Princess Serafina) created a gentleness and masculinity to serve the two aspects of his role and Chantel Leseberg (Amy/Tina) entertained with diversity of attitudes and expressions with energy and strong comic timing.
Overall the cast do a fine job and the set (Bethany Sheehan) is versatile to quickly play with the different eras and the use of the scrim and lights (Andrew Weston) allows for the production to illuminate the transient world outside of Mother Clap’s shop.
I wouldn’t say I’d rush to see this again because the cake is not quite cooked and I think the problem is mostly in the script itself but I didn’t come out disliking the show, even if it took a while for me to wrap my head around exactly it was I just saw.
‘Mother Clap’s Molly House’ runs until March 7th at the New Theatre.