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Cactus Flower: Pavilion Theatre - Review by Kimberlea Smith

At first glance, Abe Burrow’s Cactus Flower is a farcical romantic comedy. Still, as can probably be expected in a play that opens with an attempted suicide, there is an undercurrent of darkness to this play. Director Stephen Snars has done a brilliant job of bringing out the light and shade in this production and delivers a fast-paced, engaging show that will definitely make you laugh and probably tug on your heartstrings a bit, too.

Snars has assembled a cast who are all phenomenal performers. You can tell the amount of work that has been put in to really flesh out the complicated dynamics between these characters and to make these performances feel lived-in. As with any older show, politics change, and humour changes with it - a lot of the script is admittedly outdated and yet the cast is able to make the audience laugh at every punchline.

Margareta Moir is sensational as the prickly nurse Stephanie Dickinson, and her performance holds the show together. Moirdel delivers a performance that is at turns quietly heartbreaking and extremely funny and always feels grounded in reality despite the outlandishness of the plot. Another standout is Lachlan Armstrong as Igor Sullivan. Armstrong has great chemistry with every person he shares a scene with – whether he’s delighting in goading Julian or scheming with Toni, Armstrong has great command of his scenes and is a delight to watch on stage.

Daisy Alexis is endearing as the ditzy but effervescent Toni, who schemes with the best intentions. There is a certain mischievousness to Alexis’ portrayal of Toni that often comes out, particularly with Igor. Alexis and Armstrong make great scene partners – there is a warmth to their scenes that is present from the moment that their characters first meet, and Toni’s naivety contrasts nicely against Igor’s dry humour. Blake Paish has the unenviable job of making a somewhat immoral and self-centred character likeable. Still, Paish succeeds in making the audience believe that Julian was in far over his head and had no idea that faking a marriage and children would turn out as poorly as it does.

The smaller parts are also incredibly well-played, with Anthea Brown as Botticelli’s Springtime and Ben Freemanas Harvey Greenfield a particular highlight. Rounding out the cast are Penny Johnson, Ben Wheeler and Anna Weppner, all of whom have exceptional comedic timing and deliver some fantastic one-liners.

A standout is the vibrant costuming by Annette Snars, which so effectively communicates who these characters are before the actors have even uttered a word. The costumes look meticulously designed - they are so detailed and a delight.

The clever set design by Snars and Paul Stzelma must be commended – the play quickly moves between Toni’s apartment and Julian’s dental practice, as well as a nightclub and the record store where Toni works. The show easily transitions from one location to the next and, aided by Bernard Teuben’s sound design and Sean Churchward’s lighting design, can effectively transport the audience back to the 60s.

Cactus Flower is another strong production from Castle Hill Players, and I thoroughly suggest that you see it—four mink stoles out of five.

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