Vegemite Tales

Melanie Tait
Old Red Lion
(2004)

Vegemite Tales is back at its original home, The Old Red Lion, in a two hour version with a new director and is funnier, sharper and more touching than ever.

This is the tale of young Aussie folk colonising a West London flat. They live up to pretty much all of the clichés but where Melanie Tait really scores is in giving the play a real humanity that underlies the rich vein of comedy.

New director, Bill Buckhurst ensures that the pace never slacks and that few of the laughs miss. He also injects a few moments of great pathos. It is the low points that all of the residents of this household suffer that give the comedy a sense of perspective. The result is that the two hours absolutely fly by.

One of the play's strengths is that, except the cartoon Italian, Signor, the characters all have true depth. Who needs reality TV when you can find real humans like this on stage?

Whether it is the old hands, the wise greying Sammy and mother hen, Gemma (Andrew Robb and Maxine Morrison retained from earlier casts), the grim, repressed Melbournite bitch Jane (Christa Nicola) or the wilder young folk, you feel as if you have met these people.

The most touching characters are Spencer McLaren's Dan, the reformed macho womaniser, desperate virginal Maddy (Sarah McGlade) and under-sexed Eddie. This is because all struggle with relationships and the perennial search for love and sex (or vice versa), especially the last-named.

Despite Tom Sangster's wonderfully witty dressing-for-the-big-date routine after the interval, Eddie lives up to his unlucky reputation in trumps.

There is no point in recommending that readers try to see this wonderfully funny production, not only has every date sold out but so have six extra performances that were added on.

Don't worry too much. Vegemite Tales is well on the way to becoming a cult show and is bound to reappear. Who knows? It might even get to the West End.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher