The musical and romantic comedy genres get rescued from the mires of lameness.
When: Wednesday, 1 February - Saturday, 10 March
Where: Drama Theatre, Opera House , Sydney Opera House Bennelong Point, SYDNEY NSW 2000
How much: $40 - $90
If one were to be cynical, it could be thought to say a lot about the state of contemporary theatre that a play in which the female lead is mainly wearing a dress with her own vomit on it and the male lead only escapes punishment for stealing and spending a large sum in used £50 notes because his supervisor in organised crime has a heart attack can be described as heartwarming. But somehow it was, and as such we can set aside the world-weariness and simply work out what was charming about Midsummer (a play with songs), brought out from Scotland's Traverse Theatre by the Sydney Theatre Company (STC).
The Edinburgh accents and vocabulary are one place to start with that: Cora Bissett as Helena and Matthew Pidgeon as Bob deliver their characters' words to one another and to the audience in broad and delightful dialect, punctuated with 'aye's and things being described as 'mad', which the story certainly is. A 'lost weekend' sort of a situation that the pair alternately recount and act out, it has the reassurance of its definition as a romantic comedy that things are going to work out for the chance-met pair, an uptight divorce lawyer and the petty crim who is repeatedly to be seen reading Dostoevsky, "to cheer myself up".
A lot of the fun of the play comes from repeated motifs like this and a peculiarly existential parking meter that tells the two that "Change is possible", alongside the playing out of a sort of exceptionally drunken crime caper within the structure of the tropes of romantic comedy — opposites attracting, accidents bringing them together, a dramatic declaration of love as someone is about to disappear overseas. It's an insider's guide to the romance, with Bob and Helena telling the adventure as the story of how they fell in love, and the moments of sadness and reflection and awkwardness are cushioned by the evidently happy ending and the cushioning effects of how a story is retold, a topic on which both characters have some meta-narrative musings.
Having managed to survive the hangovers and the Japanese bondage and the determination that despite really agreeing on a lot of things and not wanting to leave one another's company and both thinking that the other one is "quite fit", let alone the breakup of Helena's affair with a married man and Bob's little affair with the Tesco bag full of money that doesn't belong to him, the couple tell their story as a story they've told many times before, a story that has become a legend. There is comedy and comfort and love and there are, indeed, songs (one featuring a ukelele).