Spike Heels

Robert Chuter

A strong and enjoyable production thanks to its talented and dynamic cast.
Spike Heels

‘Actually, going to bed may just be the most complicated action we could contemplate at this moment in time.’ 

Despite a Pulitzer Prize nomination, smashes (pardon the pun) both off and on Broadway, a hit television show and a plethora of screenwriting credits (we will excuse Catwoman), Theresa Rebeck's career seems to have slipped by unnoticed here in Australia. It is rare that her plays are performed this side of the equator, so for Q44 Theatre Co. and Crazy Chair Productions, to bring her wise-cracking yet vulnerable characters to the Aussie stage, is a delicious and tasty treat. Despite some clunky flow problems, this production of Spike Heels, an early work from 1990, is a strong and enjoyable production thanks to its talented and dynamic cast.

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Like My Fair Lady and Pretty Woman, Spike Heels is a modern reworking of the Pygmalion archetype, the bespectacled professor in this case being Andrew (played brilliantly by the talented Anthony Scundi), who is engaged to the upper-crust Lydia (Leida Kapsis) but harbours a secret crush on Georgie, a foul-mouthed secretary from the Bronx.  He takes Georgie under his wing, guiding her through philosophy and classical literature and even gets her a job with his lawyer best friend, Edward (played to perfection by real-life lawyer Michael Robins), a walking sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. When the new improved Georgie starts dating Edward despite his crude sexual advances, Andrew is sent into a spin, realising he has fallen in love with Georgie himself. 

Spike Heels is not a groundbreaking play by any means, but it is entertaining and witty with timeless observations of the classic battle of the sexes. Rebeck's trademark razor sharp one-liners never outshine the social commentary or tenderness that lies at the heart of her characters.

Multi-faceted director Gabriella Rose-Carter displays great understanding, imagination, skill and control with the material. Unfortunately, the dead silent (and fairly traditional) blackouts were awkward and broke the fluidity of the piece.   (No one thought of music?) The cast are universally strong, with Scundi displaying huge promise as a leading actor and the astounding Nicole Melloy (direct from her role as Ellie May in The Production Company’s Showboat) - a magnetic and flawless presence.  This difficult role could have been easily an irritating disaster in less experienced hands. 

There were two minor but memorable moments (both in Act Two) - Kapsis and Melloy’s dance to Prince's ‘Purple Rain’ proving both poignant and hilarious. The other - the hilarious Pepsi Cola drinking piece. The American accents are fairly consistent and each cast member keeps the energy high and rhythm pounding.

Jason Bovaird (once) again flaunts his mastery with lighting and a love of expressionism so evident in Purgatorio seen earlier this year is not put to waste here either. His is a touch that paints character and mood profoundly without drawing attention to itself.   Understanding the budget limitations of independent theatre, the set and costumes were unfortunately disappointing. The set/costumes appeared to be a hodge podge of borrowed items from everywhere, and, rather than suggesting a 90s apartment, would perhaps have been more effective in an impressionistic or expressionistic style.  This quibble aside, Q44 Theatre Co. and Crazy Chair Productions show a powerful collection of talent and, like many of their contemporaries, help contribute to a vibrancy that is generally lacking in subsidized theatre.  So… throw on your (red) spiked heels and mosey down to Chapel Off Chapel for some hugely enjoyable theatre. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Spike Heels

Written by Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Gabriella Rose-Carter
Set Designers: Rebecca Fortuna & Mara Kapsis
Costume Designer: Daniel Harvey
Lighting Designer: Jason Bovaird
Assistant Stage Manager: Samantha Mesh
Presented by Q44 Theatre Company & Crazy Chair Productions

The Loft, Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
www.chapeloffchapel.com.au
27 August – 14 September

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Robert Chuter is a Melbourne theatre and film director and who has given audiences over 250 +complex, controversial and visually rich productions to date. His debut feature, The Dream Children, was released internationally in 2015.