Most fans of Australian comedy would recognise Roz Hammond’s face, if not her name.
The rubber-limbed actress is a long-term collaborator of Shaun Micallef (having appeared in several of his programmes including current ABC series Mad as Hell), was an ensemble cast member on Thank God You’re Here, starred in three seasons of ABC sitcom The Librarians, not to mention Muriel’s Wedding.
But Hammond’s background is as a dramatic, not comedic actress, and her resume also includes seasons with the Melbourne and Sydney Theatre Companies.
The mix means that ticket holders to Gym & Tonic – Hammond’s first Comedy Festival show in seven years – should enter expecting a mix of blend comedy and drama, and not the wacky, over-the-top laughs she’s offered in her best-known roles.
Hammond plays eight characters in the one-woman show, each of their stories intertwined courtesy of a gym class at the local community centre. One is a well-off homewares store owner who hasn’t seen her grandchildren in weeks after her son walked out on his family. Another is a middle-aged woman who has found herself at a loose end after the death of her mother, who she lived with for eight years. A mother brings along her overweight daughter, who is being taunted by her peers on Facebook. Arguably the most poignant is a woman who has left her children in India and come to Australia to find a job and pay for her family to join her.
There are some laughs along the way, like at the class instructor’s (who we hear, but never see) over-exuberance and some top-class moving and shaking by Hammond. But the actress plays it straight for the most part, leaving audiences with a touching and superbly performed piece of theatre that explores themes of love, loss, family and loneliness. An unexpected treat, but a treat nonetheless.