Hester Joyce and Meredith Rogers play two nonagenarian women and their 60+ daughters in Marvellous, a show about the everyday lives, memories, and evolving experiences of elderly and aging women. This is a subject matter that is not often in the limelight in mainstream media depictions, and is sensitively explored and presented in this play.
The stage appears to host a fairly simple set up at first, with just a few props suspended mysteriously from the ceiling in a symmetrical formation – two chairs, two hand bags, two bean bags. As the play progresses, these items are lowered onto the stage and used with surprising impact to bring the characters and their stories to life, and also to transform the setting from a home to an aged care facility to a boat on the water, among other things. These props are also supplemented by other props that appear out of more concealed spaces – such as a life raft stored in the fireplace, a giant sail, and rope that one of the actors uses to arm-knit herself a prop.
The play has a consistently gentle pace, with monologues, conversations, and light physicality interspersed in a non-chronological arrangement. At times a storyline seems to be in development, and at other times the characters are indistinct and appear to be generally representative of a certain life stage and gendered experiences. Maude Davey’s direction is skilled and well thought-out, and lends cohesion to the show, bringing together all its parts in tonal complementarity.
There is much to consider, reflect on, and have a chuckle about in this glimpse into the lives of these ladies. Their stories touch upon a variety of themes including recollections from their younger years, marriage, children, outings, evolving personalities enriched by age and experience, physical and mental decline, and even the impact of covid-safety measures on nursing home visits. The staging and the performances work well together to create a gently engaging theatrical experience.