Review: Ron and Isobel

Politically charged suburban drama

By Samuel Barson

Australia, November 1975. The country is at its most divided, as the Whitlam Government is dismissed and replaced by the vindicated opposition lead by Malcom Fraser.

As these tumultuous political happenings play on in the background, Ron and Isobel, the titular, die-hard Labor characters, invite into their home new neighbours, the die-hard Liberal Slaters. What results is a night of heated discussion on a range of topics: divisions play out on stage between and amongst the couples, constantly reminding the audiences of the pending political battle occurring in the background at that time in history.

The tension here is immediately clear for audiences and is shown through a fluid range of comedic and dramatic moments played beautifully by the show’s cast. Shannon Woollard was perfectly smug and suave as the Fraser-loving real estate agent Paul and matched perfectly with Nadia Andary’s subdued yet clearly frustrated interpretation of Paul’s wife, Sandra.

Taylor Smith-Morvell brought some welcomed comedy and charisma to the stage in the semi-narrational role of Jack, the son of Ron and Isobel.

The clear standouts of the show however were the actors who portrayed the titular characters. Justin Harris-Parslow as Ron was magically boisterous and balanced his clear and aggressive opinions with an equally measured warm heart and non-judgmental outlook on life. Kelly Nash as Isobel was gorgeously passionate and strong-willed, undoubtedly an inspiration for the more submissive Sandra, as well as many other women in that male-dominated era.

Maureen White’s design was fittingly simple with the lighting fading in and out beautifully at each end of the play to both welcome and dismiss audiences from Ron and Isobel’s world. The use of a kitchen table and lounge chair was practical for the characters to inhabit in a very realistic sense.

Director Bruce Langdon has curated Anna Lall’s tight and rich piece of writing and has provided audiences with a piece of theatre that makes them think, laugh, empathise and reflect. Blessed with a high-quality cast and generous writing, Ron and Isobel is a must-see for lovers of politics, domestic disputes and arguments between neighbours.

Ron and Isobel is being performed at La Mama Courthouse 13 – 17 February. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office on 03 9347 6948.

Photograph:  Bruce Langdon