Reviewed by: Stage Whispers
Review by Jude Hines | 16 February 2024

The Portable Dorothy Parker

Adelaide Fringe: Australian Premiere

Grove Goddess Productions, Fringe Management and Joanne Hartstone

Holden Street Theatres: The Arch13th February to 17th March (various times)


The year is 1943 and America has entered the Second World War. American poet, writer, critic, wit, and satirist, Dorothy Parker, based in New York, is faced by her publisher with selecting a collection of her poems and short stories for overseas based servicemen. This performance sees Dorothy chatting to her appointed editor about the choice of pieces. Bitingly, she trills, “Why don’t you take notes dear; it will make you feel useful”. Writer, Annie Lux, cleverly weaves Parker’s wit into a 60-minute story of Parker’s life and loves. The prose is fluent, prosaic and reflective and the script is full of nuance and colourful expression.

Parker is neither easy to write about or to perform. Known for her razor-sharp wit and tongue, she famously said, “The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.” Her successes, including two Academy Award nominations, were curtailed when her involvement in left-wing politics resulted in her being placed on the Hollywood blacklist. Notorious for offending women performers in particular, she said, “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone”. Witticisms like these saw her fired and alienated multiple times.

 Margot Avery, presents Parker as a carefully, modulated, somewhat gentle version of the famously tempestuous public persona of Parker and it is this side of her, that Director, Lee Costello has underdone in her direction. Avery’s Parker presents a reflective monologue, rather than a dialogue with her editor and it is very controlled, lacking the passion, light and shade that we imagine attracted many lovers including alleged, onetime paramour Ernest Hemingway, who famously adored feisty women.

The audience loved the performance, particularly enjoying the witticisms, and for me, this makes it a high-quality Fringe piece that entertains without challenging or confronting. If you ‘of a certain age’, you will know who Parker was. If not, please find out and enjoy this witty, clever show. Lest I be too enamoured with Parker’s wit, I am reminded of her pronouncement. “That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.”