“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Dylan Thomas said it then. Don Reid is showing us now. Do not go gentle.

Go with a steely confidence. Go with defiance. Defy the contemporary world’s obsession with youth, and body beautiful and tight-faced “perfection!”

Deny the concept of aging being synonmous with “invisible,” “obsolete,” “unattractive,” “useless!”

Rage. Rage against the placid, docile, knee-rugged existence and the assumption of being a “sweet old person.”

Wear purple.

It is not common, nor fashionable to have a two-hour long new Australian play. It’s not usual that local place names are inserted into the play (yes localises it too much for the overseas market. It is not common or fashionable to deck a play out with one gender, one room (sans revolving stage). It is not fashionable to have puns and one liners scattered about in the dialogue. It’s also not fashionable to have five women in the full bloom of their lives on stage. Furthermore a play espousing feminism, written and directed by men? Forget it. And yet… here it is: the complete and utter rage against fashion: Biddies.

And Don Reid is raging. Writer of “Codgers” – the male companion piece to Biddies (or vice versa depending on how you look at it), actor and founding member of the Ensemble Company. And here he has written for the most celebrated and experienced Australian actors.

The premise is simple:
Five old ladies, under pressure to complete and show up their rival church cushion stitchers, become trapped in their infants school. Tensions arise when the pressure mounts, personal struggles are revealed when a ghost from the past arrives to hold them all accountable.

But, don’t be fooled. In the hands of any other director (of his generation or older) this could have dissolved into a very pastal evening of sop. And if you think that, you grossly under estimate Wayne Harrison AND the charisma of these women. Don Reid is a subversive punk. He has refused to follow fashion or inject contemporary playwriting craft into his script – and why should he? This works. It works for this audience and it works for these actors and this story. He is defiant. He is standing his ground. Absolutely. Luckily Wayne Harrison and Christine Dunstan are there to ensure his punk tendancies are kept in check.

Harrison is one of the sharpest practicing dramaturgical minds in my opinion because he never ever sacrifices two key elements of a new work: entertainment and heart. And Biddies has both. Sometimes – a little too much of both – but it’s there. Where this could have been a very watery, reverent “honouring” of our elders, Harrison gives us a full frontal explosion of entertainment – jokes, villains, singing, dancing, girl power and needlework and a disco ball. What more could you want?

For some, seeing their elders ham it up will be a difficult watch – but for those of a more mature generation will delight in it’s yester-year stylings. Sturdy, classic comedy.

For me, the genre is difficult to relax with (I am of a different generation and sensibility) – theatre is less and less about music hall and vaudeville and more about poetic realism (yes, drab in comparison). This play has a familiarity and accessibility which many will find charming. For some this will simply be a little too old-fashioned, or quaint. I know that in the age of insatiable “youth” and “innovation” and “advances in technology” – one of the biggest rebellions there is to be conservative and to make theatre not for the “younger demographic” – but for your peers. This isn’t a show for restless school kids – this is a show for groups of older women to go to with their girlfriends after too many gin and tonics. And why not? What’s wrong with a bit of exclusive fun?

Maggie Blinco, out in full force – voice as clear as a bell, bashing out a musical number, reeling off her best Robbie Burns impression and hoofing it like a woman half her age (yes it’s a shame her last costume doesn’t show off those legs of hers). Annie Byron cute and ditsy and relishing her
white satin costume, Vivienne Garrett transforms delightfully, Julie Hudspeth the goody two shoes we love to hate, Donna Lee as the sexy subversive, Linden Wilkinson mustering all the depth of her mellow-toned voice.


And so to see that Harrison has absolutely whipped them into a frenzy of costume and dance and comedy – it’s a big show. These are our elder stateswomen of the theatre, giving it every night and touring. The energy is astounding. The rambunctiousness astounding.

And so to see these women, giving it all – showcasing their voice and bodies in all their fully aged glory – wonderous! To watch one of my favourite women, Maggie Blinco in the spotlight is wonderful. I love her for her defiance, her wit, her cheeky, sassy sense of humour – she is, as all the women are, a reminder to us to never assume that we are too old to have a good time and tell a few saucy puns.