‘Keeping Up Appearances’

By Roy Clarke, based on the 90’s British sitcom. MLOC. Directed by Jane Court and Dean Mitrousis. Shirley Burke Theatre, Kingston Arts Centre, Melbourne. May 25-28, 2022.

After three postponed candlelight suppers due to cancellations, lockdowns and venue restrictions due to Covid, the play Keeping Up Appearances has finally graced the Melbourne stage, where middle class soirées belong. Based on the beloved characters of the 90’s British comedy sitcom, Roy Clark has given us a play within a play.

A murder mystery is being directed by the Buckets neighbours Emmet (Chris Churchward) and Elizabeth (Lisa Webster). After numerous attempts to stop her, our ‘self opined leading lady’ Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet by those that know what’s good for their social standing) joins the cast. Shortly thereafter, Hyacinth (Steph O’Gorman) has to eat humble pie (rather than cucumber sandwiches) and acquiesce to the role of ‘murderee’ and literally kicks the ‘bucket’ in the first act. If that’s not humiliating enough, her role in Act 2 is as a humble cook. And to make matters worse, local counsellor Mrs Debden (Lana Stojanovic) is looking for her. Reduced to the depths of imitating a lower class cook, Hyacinth has to prevent Mrs Debden from recognising her.

But on the verge of delirium can she continue ‘keeping up appearances’?

The regular characters from the sitcom including Hyacinth’s husband Richard (Colin Sephton), sisters Rose (Grace Hart-Davies) and Daisy (Leane Maddren), brother-in-law Onslow (last minute stand-in Dean Mitrousis), son Sheridan (whom we finally hear speak for the first time) Daddy and the Vicar (both played by Aiden Coucaud) are all here. Additional characters are Milson (Paul Court), Mr Partington (Billy Hommelhoff) and Mrs Avery (Amber Watson).

Steph O’Gorman’s portrayal of Hyacinth was outstanding. In her own words, she is “convinced she may be the first Indian woman to play the part!” Although the accent wasn’t entirely British, she did capture the inflections and mannerisms of Mrs Bucket’s voice and body language. Her energy and enthusiasm level was 100% the entire show! All the leads were well cast and equally entertaining. Leane Maddren as Daisy, Dean Mitrousis as Onslow and Chris Churchward as Emmet were so good in their characterisations that occasionally I had to remind myself that they were not the original actors from the TV series.

Even before the curtain opened the audience enjoyed the banter of Hyacinth and Richard off-stage. Then as the production took shape you could tell that the audience was getting a thrill seeing each new character introduced into the play. It was like stepping into an episode of the TV show. The set, decorated with hand painted fountains, flowers, plants, paintings and furniture suited the piece. The sound effects, including different ringtones for Hyacinth’s mobile phone, were very clever (who knew her ringtones are all songs from The Sound of Music?)

MLOC’s first foray into straight plays has been very successful.

Co-directors Jane Court and Dean Mitrousis are to be congratulated for bringing life to Roy Clarke’s wordy, physical and at times ponderous script. The creative team have been successful in helping each cast member shine. As Hyacinth would put it: “I shall teach people to sparkle incandescently at their candlelight suppers.” On closing night there should be ‘bouquets’ all round!

Jonathan Cox

Photographer: Deb Jenkins

MLOC Productions Inc is extremely excited to present the premiere of Keeping Up Appearances.
This play written by Roy Clarke, the writer of the original television series incorporates all your
favourite characters and includes all those situations we loved with Hyacinth social climbing at every
moment and steamrolling Emmet, Liz and everyone around her. Onslow remains a cynical slob,
Daisy loves her husband Onslow and Rose has a new beau called Mr Milson.
We are also excited to return to MLOC’s original home of the Town Hall where we originated 76
years ago. Plus we are presenting this premiere in the beautiful Grand Hall at the Kingston Arts

Emmet with the help of his sister Liz is directing a ‘Who Dunnit’ for the local dramatic society
running into conflict with the local Arts society who have their annual art show in the same local hall.
Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced ‘Bookay) has entered her painting on fine quality, genuine silk ‘Willow
by Moonlight’ into the arts show and discovers that there is vacant role called Lady Malvern in the
play. Naturally she insists on taking on the role
“Emmet, I will be a Lady Malvern you will never forget!”
Hyacinth is shocked to discover her relatives, Onslow, Daisy and Rose are also in the play and Daisy is
playing a Duchess. She is further horrified to discover her role is also that of the cook and she is
expecting Councillor Mrs Nugent to arrive soon.
All your favourite Keeping Up Appearances are also present, long-suffering husband Richard, the
Vicar, Daddy and new characters of Fuddleton plus Hyacinth now has a mobile phone “You have
reached the personal mobile of Hyacinth Bookay. This is she speaking!”