When Offspring writer Jonathan Gavin wrote A Moment on the Lips in 2001, he had specific actresses in mind for its seven characters. In fact, it was these specific thespians, the likes of whom included Caroline Brazier (Rake) and Susie Godfrey, who implored him to create the play after complaining of the lack of opportunities for women in the theatre.
More than a decade on, and it’s Claudia Barrie, Mad March Theatre Co.’s producer, creating these opportunities. “Last year I performed in a show at the New Theatre called Top Girls,” says Barrie, who yes, produces and acts. Similar to A Moment On The Lips, Top Girls was comprised of an all-female cast. “Seven women, there’s no room for men!” jokes Barrie. “It was such a great play with great roles for women, and we were talking about doing another show together. Quite a few of us took that on board and one of the cast members, Sarah Aubrey, saw A Moment On The Lips ten years ago and thought of it straight away. It was a great Australian play built on great writing, and a beautiful balance of humour and pathos. And that’s kind of how it started.”
For those unfamiliar with the piece, it’s an examination of the personal relationships of seven really different characters with intertwined lives. “They’re all in their late-20s/early-30s,” says Barrie. “It’s a stage in life when they’re making those vital decisions, assessing what their lives have been like since high school.”
Due to prior commitments, only three of the Top Girls actors were able to commit to this reprisal, which allowed Beth Aubrey to take centre stage. The name may sound familiar; she’s the little sister of Sarah Aubrey, A Moment On The Lips’ initialiser and co-producer. “She’s like my knight in shining armour,” says Barrie. “Sarah’s sister Beth graduated from NIDA a couple of years after her – Beth’s a little younger than Sarah. They’ve always wanted to work together but never have, so when Sarah and I decided to do the play, we knew Beth was available, and she loved it and is a beautiful actress.” Could the circumstances be any more ideal? Why yes, they could. Because the characters they had in mind for the Aubreys to play were sisters, Jenny and Victoria.
“Those two roles were perfect for them,” says Barrie. Sure the sisters aren’t exactly like their characters in real life – rendering their ability to encapsulate them a testament to their on-stage talent – “but the chemistry they have as sisters … you can’t fake that! … The scenes they have together…” Barrie shakes her head in amazement. “You see it! We joke about it in rehearsal. You just see it – it’s great! Sometimes it’s like watching the Aubreys at Christmas”.
For those familiar with the play, whether you witnessed the debut years ago, or are an avid Offspring/Gavin fan like Barrie – “He has this ability to write women really well … He’s quirky. The character relationships, the manipulation, he’s got it spot on” – expect something new. “It’s very much our own interpretation,” says Barrie. “It’s a very different production – different director, different actors, different style, and it’ll sit with the audience a different way as initially it takes place around September 11, which we’ve had time to process by now.”
But the brilliant, honest stories remain the same. “Because isn’t that what you want when you go to the theatre?” asks Barrie. “You just want to be told a good story.” And here, you’ll get seven.
A Moment On The Lips is on at the Old Fitzroy Theatre, Woolloomooloo from Tuesday March 25 to Saturday April 12.