Luncheon, by debut playwright Aroha Awarau, was a grand success on opening night at The Basement Theatre. The sell-out crowd were treated to a pre-show fondle of a legitimate Oscar award!! The relevance of the solo Oscar parade was that the production is set prior to the 1958 Oscar Awards, and involves a hypothetical get together of the five women that were nominated for Best Supporting Actress that year.
Katie Wolfe, who has returned to the stage after a stint in film and TV, directs luncheon. Her work, combined with the brilliant writing of Aroha Awarau, provides the fictional soiree with the insight into the world of high-living, drama, and the self-absorption that drives celebrity culture.
It’s 1958, the year diamonds were banned at the Oscars in fear that the glare in the cameras would compromise TV coverage. It was also the first time that a person of Asian ethnicity was nominated for an Oscar award. The nominee was Miyoshi Umeki (Tomoko Taouma) for her performance alongside Marlon Brando in Sayonara. The other women nominated were; Elsa Lanchester (Jennifer Ward-Lealand), Carolyn Jones (Hannah Banks), Hope Lange (Lauren Gibson) and Diane Varsi (Alex Jordan) and the sole male character portrays Carolyn Jones’ husband Aaron Spelling (Bede Skinner).
The cast were all great with stand-out performances from Jennifer Ward-Lealand and the young Alex Jordan, who illustrated brilliantly the contrast between the confidence and anxiety that comes with performing on screen. It does get very bitchy at times creating the kind of chaos that is expected of vain and highly ambitious young women, but all have their redeeming moments. There are some social issues that are only touched on during the play, but I suspect this is deliberate and are expected to sink in after enjoying such an eventful meeting.
Luncheon is also very funny, and has great timing after such a successful International Comedy Festival.
If you are craving some drama, glamour and fabulous set design then go and see this charming production.
Reviewed by Ben Blackman