BY Will Cook

“Gunshots, mishaps, back spasms, car accidents, politics, scandal, gossip, police.”

But most importantly, Rumours. There is a lot going on in NUTS’ latest production. An erratic comedy, bleeding with quick quips and haughty English accents, Rumours closes the NUTS season with a charming self-awareness of its own unbelievability.

Sometime between the ascension of celebrity TV chefs and the release of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up, in 1980s London politician Charlie has shot himself in the ear. What’s more, his wife Vivian is nowhere to be seen. Even more perplexing is that this all takes place on the night of the couple’s tenth wedding anniversary party.

Unaware of their hostess’ whereabouts, and the circumstances behind their host’s injury (neither of who appear on stage), the revolving cavalcade of guests grapple with an infuriatingly amusing concoction of confusion, indecision, lies and deceit. Trying to protect their hosts from social and political scandal, the four couples spiral into a miscommunicated entanglement of cover ups.

The first to discover the underprepared celebrations, lawyer couple Chris (Brodie Ackroyd) and Ken (Jack Madigan) Bevans set out to shield the forthcoming couples from what they assume to be a debaucherous scandal. The titular Rumours of a disheartened wife and attempted suicide, only intensify when they let Len (Daniel Tompson) and Claire (Emily Buxton) Cummings in on their hosts’ secrets.

Amidst the flounder of character comings and goings into the various rooms seen from living room set piece, two more couples arrive. The kooky chef Cookie (Jordana Wegman) and her psychiatrist husband Ernest (Alex Lafazinis), followed by the bickering Glen (Rhys Rushton) and Cassie (Emma Jackson) Cooper. As the eight guests descend into an endlessly contradictory pit of feigned stories and explanations, two police officers arrive and the guests’ lies and rumour mill obsession turn a road-safety case into a criminal investigation.

Rollicking through two condensed acts of back-and-forth dialogue, quick-fire comebacks and one mother of a cluttered monologue to finish, the ensemble meld in a pleasing jumbled heap. A faithful adaption of playwright Neil Simon’s 1988 witty creation, Rumours’ strength rests in its restlessness. There’s no respite from the merry-go-round of screeches, clangs and lies, ensuring that the unbelievable isn’t contemplated.

Director, and lead designer, Daniel Tompson brings balance to an ensemble of memorably outlandish individuals. Acting as a portal out of the action, doors to the off-stage kitchen and front porch come alive with non-diegetic horns, crashes, injuries and arguments. During moments of ensemble madness, Tompson’s placement of a bar on the side of the stage is a notable hotspot of character eye-rolls and alcoholism.

Equally as refreshing in his role as the high-strung financial advisor Len, Tompson proves himself to be a consummate triple threat. Stopping short of stealing the show, his partnership with stage wife Emily Buxton grounds Rumours in the much-needed realm of realistic.

Opening the performance, Brodie Ackroyd and Jack Madigan are pleasing as the would-be protagonists of the group, the Bevans. The Bevans’ relatable dryness and fine-tuned accents are a welcome contrast to the caricature-like Cusak couple, consisting of self-described mastermind, Ernest and the aptly named Cookie. The last pair to arrive, the Coopers (Rhys Rushton and Emma Jackson), unfortunately fade away as boring beneath more versatile performances. As the majority of the cast does not attend UNSW, the production is oddly placed as a student-lead production lacking in students.

In a similar vein to an Agatha Christie classic, NUTS’ production of Rumours is at its most delicious when the entire ensemble shares the stage. While it could lose ten minutes, the endless latherings of insanity are as enjoyable as they are unrealistic.

NUTS' production of Rumours is playing at Studio One until Saturday 20 October. Get more details and grab a ticket via the Facebook event.

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