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The Bridesmaid Must Die
Launceston Players
Earl Arts Centre, Launceston

April 16, 2021

Laughter really is the best medicine. It speaks volumes to the quality of a well-written farce when we can laugh and have a riotous night in the theatre, while we cringe and feel appalled at some of the worst qualities of the human condition. Launceston Players “The Bridesmaid Must Die” does just that; it envelops us in a hysterically funny caricature of high-end Sydney society, before smacking us in the face with the brutality of humans at their worst.

It’s not unusual for the Players to produce a farce, but the risk that they take bringing Bridesmaids to the stage is highly commendable and it paid off with an opening night packed to almost capacity, on the edge of laughing hysterically and crying emphatically. With the added element of having three alternate endings and giving the audience the power at interval to “Kill Off” a character, it led to a night of frivolity and expectation that was crushed at every turn.

Leigh Oswin’s direction is concise and perfectly balanced. The ensemble sufficiently fill the stage without ever feeling cramped, and each actor handles the text with the appropriate amount of restraint; keeping the characters from feeling overwhelmingly caricatured and maintaining their human qualities. This limitation of archetypal parody delivers the audience a pathos, a connection to the tragic and disturbing circumstances this so called “happiest occasion” brings.

I had the privilege of being involved in the early stages of the rehearsal period, and to see the characters develop from where they were to where they are now is a credit to the hard work of the team and all the actors involved.

Tia Landeg’s Julia is a perfect example of this development. The “Dyke” sister of bride to be Yasmine (Bindy Stephens) has a rough and abrasive edge to her. During the initial read through I was involved in, Julia’s character was my favourite, possessing a dry and sarcastic wit that had me in hysterics. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to see her killed by the end. However, Tia’s final performance mutates her sardonic wit into a bitter and abrasive anger, which draws a penchant toward wanting her to be killed off.

This is what makes this show so successful. The other two candidates for death, Philippa (Played by Tash McCulloch) and Bree (Played by Nikia Breen), both have this propensity for leading the audience down a road of distaste and repulsion during Act 1. Phillipa is the sickly sweet, annoying bug that seems to hang around and always tries to be “good” by trying to squash the drama as it unfolds. Albeit she too often gets herself into the problems and tension that we feel so sympathetically toward her for. This includes her repulsive relationship with her ex (and stalker) Lucas (Ryan Politis), who she can’t seem to shake because of her desire to be a nice person. Bree perpetuates the stereotype of the tart to the extreme, so akin to the high school bully that we are salivating at the thought of knocking her down. Both the actors have worked so hard to find the repulsive behaviours of their characters and heightened them to a point where the audience should have a really difficult time each night deciding which bridesmaid must die.

However, Act 2 brings us a whole new monster, in the form of Raylene, played with a horrendous ferocity by Amanda Phillips, that I have never seen from her before. While some of her quips and one liners had the audience in absolute fits of laughter, her performance turns dark after she’s had a lot to drink and berates Julia with such uncomfortable nastiness we wish we could have voted her off at interval. Her comeuppance comes when her daughters connect in a way they haven’t before and stand united against her. Her life seemingly comes into focus at this point with a breakdown into a bottle of alcohol.

Rounding out the talented cast of course is the bride to be Yasmine (Bindy Stephens), who is so stereotypical “Sydney Socialite” in Act 1 I thought I was back in Bondi, but has such a rewarding recompense in Act 2, after her seemingly perfect life falls apart and we see a fire, but also a tenderness that goes hand in hand with a traumatic and heartbreaking situation. And of course, her groom to be (Robbie Bleakley) plays the condescending trust fund prick with a weirdly charming sleaze that makes the audience want to boo and cheer simultaneously when he gets kicked out.

Finally, Terry Ryan’s set and Janice Molineux’s costume design elevate the show to another level. The gaudy yet slightly tacky lifestyle of these characters is so preposterous, and the costumes highlight this, especially Yasmine’s golden jumpsuit which almost blinds you with its bling.

In the end, Bree took the ultimate sacrifice, and I can’t say I was unhappy. However, this is a show you want to get to multiple times, because the satisfaction of only seeing one of these bridesmaids perish is not enough.


Review by Matt Taylor

The Bridesmaid Must Die (2021): News
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