It’s been a warm start to autumn outside and in the theatre, particularly with Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica playing at the Ensemble Theatre. Like a comforting cup of hot chocolate, this David Williamson’s script is the big hug we all need.
Set in Sydney, this play explores the beginnings of a new friendship between Miss Monica and her contractor Gary. With tendonitis in her shoulder, Monica has taken leave from the Sydney Symphony and feels rather sorry for herself. Knowing she’ll never return, she decides to remodel her kitchen and employs Gary to come and install her IKEA-designed decor. Unbeknownst to the trained musician, Gary has an alter ego of Rhinestone Rex, a washed-up country music star who intends to convince Monica that country music is just as valid as her classical taste. Both single and alone, a little spark forms between the two, but are they too dissimilar to match or do opposites attract? You’ll have to head down to Kirribilli to find out.
Directed by Mark Kilmurry and designed by Veronique Benett (set and costume), Trudy Dalgleish (lighting) and Daryl Wallis (sounds), Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica is a delight on the Ensemble stage. While the international shows bring pizzazz and flare, the Australian plays really sit in my heart. David Williamson has done a grand job capturing the Inner Westie spirit, a mix of the artistic elite and down-to-earth tradies. The set is simple and believable, and an eclectic musical anthology augments the whole show, from Mahler to Dolly Parton.
It’s not often you sit in the theatre and the whole audience has a nostalgic grin. While some of the directional choices by Kilmurry may have missed the comedic timing, the overall direction is familiar and comforting. This show brings a smile to all.
A double-hander is always a challenge for the actors, but the familiarity between Georgie Parker and Glenn Hazeldine keeps the story flowing easily.
Parker embodies the uptight Monica so naturally that you would almost believe it was part of her nature. The audience can’t help but sympathise with the disheartened Monica, who will never make music again. Parker’s character is perfectly balanced by the jovial endearing Gary, played by Hazeldine. I don’t know if he’s spent much time in the country music scene, but his characterisation wouldn’t stand out at the Country Music Festival in Tamworth.
It’s easy to see why the Ensemble Theatre reunited this pairing after 13 years. Their familiarity kept me entertained and brought to melancholy glow to the auditorium. Regardless of where you stand on classical or country music, everyone will enjoy Ensemble’s autumnal offering.
– The other Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig is an international performer and has established himself as a trusted theatre specialist on the Sydney Arts Scene. While he understands the technical side of theatre, Dan writes for the everyday theatregoer (unlike some of those more prominent publications). When not in the audience, he loves to travel the world trying new gin. Follow him on all the socials @talldancraig
Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica runs for 2 hours (with a 20 min interval) and plays at The Ensemble Theatre through 29 April 2023. Tickets are available through the Ensemble Theatre.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Kabuku PR.
Image credit: Prudence Upton.