Reg Livermore in THE WIDOW UNPLUGGED                                                                                                           Production photos: Prudence Upton

In 1958, Reg Livermore became a founding member of Hayes Gordon’s Ensemble Theatre, alongside Lorraine Bayly, Don Reid, Jon Ewing and Clarissa Kaye. This year, during the 60th anniversary of the Ensemble, Livermore has returned to the boards with his latest one-man show, THE WIDOW UNPLUGGED (OR AN ACTOR DEPLOYS).  His triumphant entrance on opening night inspired a well-deserved round of applause !

Since his early shows, ‘Hair’, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, his amazing Dr Frank’n’furter in ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ and the fabulous ‘Betty Blokk Buster Follies’ one-man show series in the 70s, Livermore has won many distinguished accolades, including the Sydney Critics Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 and an AO in 1996! 

Livermore has written this show for his latest character, Arthur Kwick, a theatrical jack-of-all-trades and largely unremarkable actor, who found fame in 1969 at the Tivoli theatre with his pantomime ‘Aladdin‘ playing Widow Twankey. With his career and health at an all time low, he takes up a new challenge as resident janitor in a retirement village, where he can re-invent his ‘tricks of the trade’. When his one-time friend, Marina Prior and her team, turn down an unpaid entertainment gig he has organised for his ‘governess’, he steps in to replace them and save the day. He revives his crowning glory, the pantomime ‘Aladdin‘, starring his Chinese Widow, who now runs a laundry in Mosman.

Although some of the pantomime scenes could be edited and shortened, Livermore still has impeccable timing, wonderful contact with the audience, quixotic energy and agility and sharp, clean and mercurial transitions between the dual characters he plays – particularly his posh, English retirement home ‘Governess’ and the bold, somewhat rough accent of Arthur Kwick. To his credit, Livermore does have poignant moments of underlying sadness, reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp. I would like to have seen more of these moments, even though Arthur’s intrinsically hammy, ‘make-em-laugh’ nature defies this.

Director Mark Kilmurry has kept the pace of the play tight. Christopher Page’s lighting, Charles Davis’ set and costumes and Bev Kennedy’s piano highlight the production.

It’s worth seeing THE WIDOW UNPLUGGED to experience Reg Livermore’s contagious energy and his mastery of the stage. As Mark Kilmurry says, he “makes the art of acting look effortless”.

Reg Livermore in THE WIDOW UNPLUGGED (OR AN ACTOR DEPLOYS) is playing  at the Ensemble Theatre in Kirribilli [Facebook] until September 1st, 2018.