Trailer Trash tragicomedy is a treasure
The central theme of this searing, tragicomic play, brilliantly directed by Nicola Flood, is the all too prevalent social issue of wife abuse.
Willadean Winkler (Brooke Burfitt) finds herself trapped in an abusive relationship with her husband “J.D.” (Stephen Notman) and is comforted by her best friend and neighbour LaSonia Robinson, (Samantha Smith), whose empathy becomes understandable when we hear her sister was killed by abuse.
Working in the Spotlight Bar frequented nightly by J.D. are the foul-mouthed, feckless but basically sympathetic cocktail waitress, Rayleen Hobbs (Kelly Gilmour), a pianist (Tom Ray) and a blues and gospel singer (Sheila Smith).
Smith's beautifully delivered songs, excellently accompanied, punctuate and comment on the play as it unfolds. Trailer Trash Blues, Playing the Waiting Game, If you believe you can achieve and Keep the Faith indicate the emotional changes which Willadean experiences.
Burfitt faultlessly shows how Willadean is trapped through her desperation to please J.D., trying pathetically to be the “ideal” housewife he says he wants, and through her need to be in denial of his abuse: “He just pushed me a little ...” when we have just seen him brutally beat her. Her final action has all the more impact.
Notman's J.D. brilliantly depicts an explosive and evil combination of paunchy despair, berserk control freakdom, alcoholism, racism, mawkish self-pitying sentimentality and raw violence.
Robinson effectively reveals LaSonia as the one who realises that Willadean must somehow escape, comedically portraying her as a debunker of cliché (“Doctor Phil is full of s***”). Kelly Gilmour's amoral Rayleen, a sort of latter-day Southern Sally Bowles, manages to be very funny and outrageous at the same time.
Under Nicola Flood's direction, the play shows how humour comes to the fore even in the midst of the most extreme emotional pain. The characters are all the more believable and the emotional impact greater because of this.
The set is excellent, complete with trailer-type windows and door, plastic flamingos, the obligatory portrait of Elvis and the kitsch landscape.
Thanks to all the cast and crew, The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Wife is a must see.
The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Wife
by Del Shores, Joe Patrick Ward and Sharyn Lane
Directed by Nicola Flood and produced by Theresa Hall
Daylesford Theatre 8pm tonight and tomorrow, and May 11-13