The book club: a civilised gathering of literary folk in which the various artistic merits of a text are debated with intellectual rigour. Or not.
For some book fans, the monthly gathering is more about gossip, good company and booze. Enter veteran performer Amanda Muggleton with her one-woman comedy called, you guessed it, The Book Club.
“This is not an intellectual romp,” Amanda insists. “You know what I’d like to call it? Read Between the Wines.”
First staged in 1999, the play was written for Amanda by New Zealand playwright Roger Hall, inspired by her legendary performance in Shirley Valentine.
This new production, directed by Amanda’s longtime buddy Nadia Tass, has an updated booklist and has shed an hour from the running time. But Amanda’s intimate approach means each performance has always been unique.
“People don’t believe I’ve got a script. They think I’m making it up as I go along, because I’m talking to you, the audience, as if you’re my best friend and you’ve all come to hear the story of what happened when I joined the book club. Sometime I ask the audience for advice – and I get it.”
This intimacy is reflected in the short distance between the characters and their audience.
“There are so many book clubs out there and I guarantee they will all identify with someone in this play,” Amanda says, adding that theatre is a place where older women can still see their stories told.
“Women get to a certain age and disappear. On television, the work definitely dries up. This country’s TV has been having this love affair with the youth, but the youth have turned their back on it. We’re an ageing population. You can only watch so many episodes of Neighbours and see these beautiful young people getting pregnant at the age of 12.”
- The Book Club, Southbank Theatre, The Lawler, from July 23, $44.90-$85.75, southbanktheatre.com.au