CARAVAN – THE HILARIOUS HOLIDAY FROM HELL @ CASTLE HILL PLAYERS

Donald Macdonald’s CARAVAN, part of the 2024 season at CASTLE HILL PLAYERS, and portrays the holiday everyone would all like to forget; the story of three couples in a nightmare two weeks’ vacation where everything that possible could goes wrong. It’s alight hearted look at friendships, marriage and ageing with lots of complications to keep the action and laughter going.

Under the strong direction of Bernard Teuben, the cast of six do a top job bringing their characters to life.

Parkes Robinson, played with manic intensity by Jason Spindlow, is obsessively proud of his caravan and appears to love it perhaps more than his wife Penny. Every year he takes his family to the same caravan park and parks it in the same spot. He is not impressed when the spot is taken and his anger surges, as it does often within the play.

This year, by way of a change, three lifelong friends and a new girlfriend have been invited, so they too may enjoy the comfort and privilege of staying in Parkes’ caravan. Of course all does not go according to play.

Margareta Moir as Monica Rice was outstanding, a character so bitchy and entitled it’s hard to believe that she wasn’t divorced years ago. It’s such fun watching her play off the other characters who are completely opposite to her. Vanessa Henderson plays her best friend Penny, played by Vanessa Henderson. Penny is a somewhat wishy/washy character who tries to keep the peace and please everyone yet has some strong desires of her own. As the plot progresses, we could certainly wonder how they could consider each other best friends.

Daniel Ferris plays Rodney Rice, at times slightly bored with it all, tending to go with the flow but not entirely innocent. Their bachelor friend Pierce, who is keen on younger women and also not fond of roughing it, was played with a lot of fun by Ben Wheeler. His young girlfriend on this holiday, Gwendolyn played by Jade Brimfield is certainly out of her element in this group, not helped by Monica’s attitude. She’s an almost hippie type who managed to keep stressing the age difference to the annoyance of the others.

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Matters go from bad to worse as they are all trapped by terrible weather in the cramped caravan, alcohol is consumed, heads are banged tensions rise, martial affairs are revealed, all providing ongoing fun to the audience.

A most impressive set design by Bernard Teuben represents a rather long caravan, open-sided to reveal the interior where all the action takes place, with outside events achieved by excellent sound effects (sound design Bernard Teuben) and lighting effects (lighting design Madhavi Shankarling) , from hitting one’s head upon entry, to erecting the annexe, to the thunderstorm and rain.

The play was published in 1984 and the use of, and concepts around certain words has changed since then. Some audience members may be sensitive to the jokes around the use of the word rape. It is perhaps a shame that an alternative word such as attack, couldn’t have been used.

For an easy, fun night out get to CASTLE HILL PLAYERS production of this Australian comedy, which many audience identified with judging by comments about caravanning holidays as they left the theatre.  Playing at the Pavilion Theatre, Doran Drive, Castle Hill Showground, until 27th April 2024.

Photos by Chris Lundie