There’s nothing that draws a crowd quite like Mrs Robinson. At 5:15pm, Greenside’s Ivy Studio was packed to the rafters with Baby Boomers with drinks in hand, who all were ready to be touched by pop culture’s most famous cougar. Billed as a funny, provocative and inspirational show, A Touch of Mrs Robinson hits a few of its marks, but misses a few too.
This is a show with smarts, and a lot of heart. Exploring the (mostly imagined) backstory of The Graduate’s Mrs Robinson, Fiona Coffey takes us on a 60’s-pop-fuelled journey through her obsession with Anne Bancroft’s character. She’s accompanied by two fantastic musicians (Michael Roulston and Jonathan Kitching), both of whom manage to steal the show every time they’re called upon. On paper, every aspect of this is fun.
The problem is, Fiona Coffey never really managed to convince me that she was anything like Mrs Robinson. She certainly looked the part, sporting fantastic hair coiffed into an immaculate beehive, a leopard-print coat and a cigarette. She sounded like her too, when in character and crooning the early, sultry notes of a song. Yet despite the genuine charm of her script, I never got the feeling she was truly comfortable in front of the crowd. I suspect Coffey holds Mrs Robinson in too high a regard to make proper fun of her, which is exactly what a Fringe cabaret about Mrs Robinson should be able to do.
The audience participation, in which you are asked to come up with an outrageous pick-up line for a chance to win a prize, is an inspired idea that could have busted the show’s restraint. Here, the issue isn’t entirely with the production but with the scheduling. Had the show been put on at 11pm with a more relaxed and boozy audience, the whole endeavour would have been hilarious rather than just a little awkward.
Having said all of this, I can’t fault the show’s intentions. You don’t often go to a cabaret expecting a feminist dialogue about 60’s housewives, who were often at breaking point with their repetitive lives and society’s heavy expectations. A Touch of Mrs Robinson manages to make exploring the topic really quite fun, mocking sexist, out-of-date "how to be a wife" manuals and sharing terrible pick-up lines.
It makes for an enjoyable 55 minutes, although it’s safe to say A Touch of Mrs Robinson is a Baby Boomer’s cabaret. You’ll get the most out of it if you have seen The Graduate and, like Fiona Coffey, already feel some kind of life-altering connection with it.