MiNDFOOD reviews: ‘Wayside Bride’ is an edifying experience at the theatre

By Gill Canning

Credit: Brett Boardman
Credit: Brett Boardman
Playwright Alana Valentine has researched and interviewed many brides and grooms to form the foundation of her new play, 'Wayside Bride' at Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre.

The Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross, Sydney is a well-known charity that since 1964 has been helping the homeless, the addicted and society’s marginalised. What is not so well-known is that during the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, the Chapel’s founder, the Reverend Ted Noffs, conducted around 24,000 wedding ceremonies for couples unable to find anyone else to marry them. These included many inter-faith marriages between couples of different religions, as well as divorced Catholics not permitted to re-marry in their own church.

Playwright Alana Valentine has researched and interviewed many of these brides and grooms (her own mother among them) to form the foundation of her new play, Wayside Bride at Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre.

Credit: Brett Boardman

For those of us not around back then, it may be hard to imagine a world where such religious prejudice was commonplace in Australia. This play not only depicts that world but also reminds us that similar legislative discrimination existed until recently – when Australia’s same-sex marriage bill was made law in 2017.

Indeed, Noff’s activities were not without opposition. A nominally Methodist minister, he is accused of heresy by his own church and bravely takes on the church hierarchy to defend his flock of “the discarded and the different”.

A formidable cast of 10 play up to three characters each in Wayside Bride. Particularly assured in their portrayals were Brandon McClelland as Rev Ted Noffs, and the always impressive Sacha Horler who doubled up as Ted’s wife Margaret Noffs and Alana’s mum Janice. The versatile Marco Chiappi delighted the audience playing Shaun, a former homeless misfit turned Wayside groom; Rowan, a local Kings Cross dandy; and a senior member of the Methodist church who accuses Noffs of “making his ego more important than his ministry”.

The costume design of the era, complete with hippy chick attire and pastel suits, is flawless and although set design is minimal to reflect the lack of frippery in Noffs’ church, it is used to good effect with such props as the ‘Theology Bingo’ wheel.

Wayside Bride is an edifying experience as well as an engaging night at the theatre.

Wayside Bride

Belvoir Theatre

2 April – 29 May, 2022

belvoir.com.au

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