Tag Archives: Andrew Upton

SPEED-THE-PLOW @ ROSLYN PACKER THEATRE

“Everybody’s a dreamer/Everybody’s a star/And everybody’s in show biz/It doesn’t matter who you are.”

                                     The Kinks : Celluloid Heroes

David Mamet sets his play – the obscurely titled  “SPEED-THE-PLOW” in Los Angeles in the late 1980s.  

The Kinks lyrics are a truism that most certainly applies in Los Angeles. Everybody in LA is part of Tinsel Town, no matter whether they fit  into the glam and glitz or are Hollywood  misfits.

There are just three characters in this play, Bobby Gould (Damon Herriman), head of production at a Hollywood movie studio, his colleague and subordinate Charlie Fox (Lachy Hulme), and Bobby’s new temporary secretary Karen (Rose Byrne).

The play has three  succinct scenes. The first scene takes place in Gould’s austere  office and involves all three characters. As the action unfolded, Karen’s character was subtlety exposed. The  feeling was that she was going to be the protagonist- she was going to drive the action, and this is how it played out. Continue reading SPEED-THE-PLOW @ ROSLYN PACKER THEATRE

FEYDEAU FARCE GETS LOTS OF LAUGHS @ THE OPERA HOUSE

French farce at its best via Georges Feydeau’s A FLEA IN MY EAR is currently entertaining audiences at the Sydney Opera House.

Feydeau take us into the world of the the sophisticated, promiscuous French middle class who, on one hand, are doing some serious bed hopping and, on the other hand, are trying to catch their partners out with their infidelities.

The tagline for this Sydney Theatre  Company production  is ‘Let the famously french fun begin’ and that exactly describes how director Simon Phillips and adaptor Andrew Upton’s play it for the romp that it is – for lots of laughs and with great energy. The style is irreverent, in  particular in the ‘digs’ it has at the dour, solemn approach that some theatremakers have. As one characters says at one time, ‘It’s just a play’…Yes, that it might be, but it sure makes for good entertainment.

The  cast is outstanding, their timing and finesse around what is at times a tricky stage impeccable. Favourite performances came from Harry Greenwood  as the harassed, fraught Camille Chandebise and Harriet Dyer as  Raymonde Chandebise.

Production values are excellent. This is the perfect play for a revolve set and Gabriela Tylevsova’s ornate set works a treat as does her exquisite period costumes.

Highly recommended, FLEA IN MY EAR is playing the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House until 17th December.

Featured photo – Harry Greenwood and David Woods in Sydney Theatre Company’s A Flea in Her Ear. © Brett Boardman.

SYDNEY THEATRE COMPANY LAUNCHES ITS 2017 SEASON WITH SOME SURPRISES

It has been the season for launches and Sydney’s flagship theatre company, the Sydney Theatre Company,  has now chimed in with the announcement of its 2017 season.

Sydney Theatre Company’s Executive Director Patrick McIntyre started proceedings and then handed over to interim Artistic Director Kip Williams announced next years’ program to a packed gathering at the Bar at the End of the Wharf on Thursday night.

Williams has  curated  an intriguing program which is bound to attract a healthy cross-section of theatregoers. There are some exciting and bold choices.

There have not been enough stories coming from our Asian communities that have made it our stages. This makes the STC’s decision to program Disapol Savetsila’s play AUSTRALIAN GRAFFITI  cause for much celebration as indeed was witnessed by the delighted reactions of Lee Lin Chin and her friends when Williams made the announcement.

The  Sydney Theatre Company developed Savetsila’s play in conjunction with Asian Australian arts company Performance 4a and Playwriting Australia and will be directed by Paige Rattray. The play, commissioned by the STC, has been described as exploring ‘the migrant experience from the inside out.” A Thai family who open up a Thai restaurant in a small country town face a  crisis when their place of business is vandalised by graffiti. How cam they survive such a personal and cultural insult?!

Internationally acclaimed filmmaker PJ Hogan, along with his wife Jocelyn Moorehouse were on hand to hear the announcement that Hogan’s breakthrough film is coming back as a stage play, what’s more a musical.  Hogan has come up with a new book for the musical  and brings Muriel and her friends up to the present day. Simon Phillips will direct  and the music and lyrics come via award winning singer-songwriters Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall.

Williams will direct three productions during the year including a Caryl Churchill play CLOUD NINE which will star one of our finest young actors, Harry Greenwood. A big fan of Churchill’s work, Williams believes audiences will engage deeply with this work which explores how our need as human beings need to give ourselves specific  identities limits our ability to achieve true authenticity.

There will be a fresh revival of Michael Gow’s classic AWAY, directed by brilliant young director Matthew Lutton and starring Heather Mitchell, and a new adaptation by Andrew Upton  of Anton Chekhov’s masterpiece THREE SISTERS, again directed by Williams, starring one of Australia’s brightest young actresses, Eryn Jean Norvill.

The years’ international production  will be the Headlong, Nottingham Playhouse and Almeida Theatre production of George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 with a stage adaptation by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan. Sydney audiences will see the original production as directed by Icke and Macmillan but with a new Australian cast.

At the gathering Williams also announced that Imara Savage has been appointed as the STC’s new Resident Director taking over from Sarah Goodes who has moved across to the Melbourne Theatre Company. Savage will direct two plays in 2017, Colm Toibin’s THE TESTAMENT OF MARY starring Alison Whyte and Moira Bufini’s DINNER with a cast including Bruce Spence and Brandon Burke.

For the full details about STC’s 2017 season visit http://www.sydneytheatre.com.au.

For your enjoyment, here are some pics  taken by Guide photographer Ben Apfelbaum at a very well attended launch.

 

 

The Present @ Roslyn Packer Theatre

Inset pic- Toby Schmitz and Cate Blanchett. Featured pic- Richard Roxburgh and Cate Blanchett. Production pics by Lisa Tomasetti
Inset pic- Toby Schmitz and Cate Blanchett. Featured pic- Richard Roxburgh and Cate Blanchett. Production pics by Lisa Tomasetti

It was a thrill to be present at the opening night of THE PRESENT at the Roslyn Packer theatre. Expectations were high, and they were more than met with Irish auteur John Crowley’s production of Anton Chekhov’s first play variously titled Ivanov, Platanov, Fatherlessness, A Play Without A Title in a new adaptation/reworking  by Andrew Upton.

As I reflected on the night in the car going home,  I was comparing the excitement to going to a major sporting event where so many excellent players are on show…like seeing Manchester United at the Football Stadium. Continue reading The Present @ Roslyn Packer Theatre

Sydney Theatre Company Announces Patrick White Playwrighting Awards

Back row- STC Artistic Director Andrew Upton, Playwright Debra Thomas. Front row- STC Literary Manager Polly Rowe, Playwright Kate Mulvany. Pic by Hon Boey
Back row- STC Artistic Director Andrew Upton, Playwright Debra Thomas. Front row- STC Literary Manager Polly Rowe, Playwright Kate Mulvany. Pic by Hon Boey

Kate Mulvany is the new Patrick White Playwrights’ Fellow and Debra Thomas has won the 2014 Patrick White Playwrights’ Award Kate Mulvany has been announced as the latest recipient of STC’s Patrick White Playwrights’ Fellowship at a special event held at The Wharf last Friday, 22nd May.

Now in its fifth year, the Fellowship is a position for an established playwright whose work has been produced professionally in Australia within the last four years. Mulvany receives $25,000 in recognition of her body of work and previous artistic achievements. As well as including a commission from STC which she will develop during the year-long tenure, the Fellowship provides opportunities for her to share her skills with other playwrights and artists. Continue reading Sydney Theatre Company Announces Patrick White Playwrighting Awards

Endgame @ Sydney Theatre

Endgame- inset
Sarah Peirse as Nell and Bruce Spence as Nagg in Samuel Beckett’s ENDGAME. Production pics by Lisa Tomasetti

A Samuel Beckett night at the theatre is like no other. One is just taken over by his bold, raw take on life. Even after all these years, one is still gobsmacked, stunned, by what one is taking place on stage. The experience is like being set upon by the coldest, bleakest wind.

So it is with Andrew Upton’s lucid, prescient production of one of Beckett’s greatest works, ENDGAME. Continue reading Endgame @ Sydney Theatre

A dazzling Cyrano

Inset Pic- Eryn Jean Norvill and Josh McConville. Featured Pic- Julia Zemiro and Richard Roxburgh. Pics Brett Boardman

French playwright Edmond Rostand’s CYRANO DE BERGERAC (1897) is one of the all time, great works of World Theatre. Prestigious theatre companies love to have a crack at it, and give audiences a night to remember.

The great plays have exacting standards,- the bar is raised to its highest level in all regards. Particularly, revivals require actors of the highest calibre to perform the main roles, otherwise the production will simply fall away and audiences will go away feeling shortchanged.

The good news is that the Sydney Theatre Company’s new production, directed by Artistic Director Andrew Upton, meets this absolute imperative with its quartet of four fine leading players, – Richard Roxburgh, Eryn Jean Norvill, Chris Ryan and Josh McConville

Richard Roxburgh steps into the coveted shoes of the great swordsman and poet, Cyrano with verve panache. He is every bit the passionate, charismatic, perfectionistic, deeply moralistic, heart-breaking swordsman and poet.

Eryn Jean Norvill plays the part of Cyrano’s flame and muse, Roxane. Eryn has a large arc to transverse through the play, from being a superficial girl-woman to a mature, more considerate woman.

Chris Ryan is convincing as Christian, a young, hedonistic man who thinks about things with much more depth after his friendship with Cyrano.

Josh McConville displays great stage presence as the prickly, cruel Count de Guiche who learns to be more humane as the play unfolds.

These main players are well supported by a cast that includes Bruce Spence and Julia  Zemiro.

The show is cleverly staged by director Andrew Upton along with his designers, Alice Babidge and Renee Mulder. Good use is made of the large Sydney Theatre stage.

The main stage is flanked stage left, right and rear with raised catwalk for the players to transverse, when needed. The area is used very flexibly,- with the use, for the first three Acts, of a raised stage, on wheels.

Act 1 features a  proscenium arched theatre with red curtains in the centre. (The play begins at the theatre in the Hotel Burgundy). In  Act 2, the stage is rotated about 45 degrees into the the patisserie setting. The third Act sees the raised stage being rotated some 180 degrees to become the famous balcony setting at Roxane’s home. In Act 4, the raised stage is removed, and the stage becomes the battlefield setting at Arras. Finally, in Act 5, we are at a convent outside Paris.

Babidge and Mulder’s great period costumes, Damien Cooper’s superb lighting, and Paul Charlier’s atmospheric soundscape, featuring short pieces of music, recorded sounds, and some chanting, work well.

A Sydney Theatre Company production, adapted and directed by Andrew Upton from the original translation by Marion Potts, Edmond Rostand’s CYRANO DE BERGERAC opened at the Sydney Theatre, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay on Saturday  15th November and is playing until Saturday 20th December, 2014.

STC Season 2015

Some of the stars of season 2015, Left to right- Cate Blanchett (The Present), Hugo Weaving (Endgame), Susie Porter (Death and the Maiden) and Jacqueline McKenzie (Orlando). Pic by Grant Sparkes-Carroll. Pic above of Hugo Weaving in Endgame. Pic by James Green
Some of the stars of season 2015, Left to right- Cate Blanchett (The Present), Hugo Weaving (Endgame), Susie Porter (Death and the Maiden) and Jacqueline McKenzie (Orlando). Pic by Grant Sparkes-Carroll. Pic above of Hugo Weaving in Endgame by James Green

The Sydney Theatre Company (STC) season tickets for 2015 go on sale from next Tuesday (14th October) now that their priority booking period for existing subscribers has ended.

Here is a snapshot- in chronological order- of the different plays on offer in what is another exciting year for the STC  in another year of Andrew Upton’s tenure as Artistic Director.

AFTER DINNER
By Andrew Bovell
15 January to 7 March 2015, Wharf 1
Opening Night: Tuesday 20 January 2015

Andrew Bovell’s hilarious 1988 play, After Dinner, is rediscovered with a top comedic cast playing lonely singles trying to escape their nine-to-five routines on a night out at the pub. With bouffant hair and shoulder pads, three office colleagues played by Helen Thomson, Anita Hegh and Rebecca Massey, are raring to go. At a table nearby are one-and-a-half potentially eligible blokes (Glenn Hazeldine and Josh McConville). But before the band has even hit the stage it’s pretty clear things are going to get messy tonight. It may be a comedy but Bovell’s first play bears the same psychological acuity that audiences have loved in his more recent plays at STC; When the Rain Stops Falling and The Secret River. Imara Savage (Machinal) directs.

SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER
By Tennessee Williams
9 February to 21 March 2015, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House Opening Night: Friday 13 February 2015

Former Artistic Director Robyn Nevin is back at STC as the formidable Violet in Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer. In the sinister hothouse garden of the late Sebastian Venable, his mother is determined to do whatever is necessary to stop her niece Catharine (Eryn Jean Norvill) babbling the dreadful truth of her son’s demise. The macabre, disturbing and dark portrait of moral disintegration is directed by STC Resident Director Kip Williams collaborating with designer Alice Babidge and utilising live video to expose the characters’ nightmarish secrets. Also confirmed for the cast are Susan Prior and Paula Arundell.

RIVERRUN
The voice of the river in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake adapted and performed by Olwen Fouéré
10 March to 11 April 2015, Wharf 2
Opening Night: Thursday 12 March 2015

One of Ireland’s leading theatre-makers, Olwen Fouéré, was invited to STC as part of 2011’s Abbey Theatre highlight, Terminus. Now she returns with her own scorching show that has won ecstatic reviews this year at London’s National Theatre and in Edinburgh. In riverrun, Fouéré brings to theatrical life the final sequence of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, charting the progress of the River Liffey. The Scotsman’s five-star review reports that “for an astonishing 65 minutes, she holds the audience enthralled, as she leads us through Joyce’s glimmering vision of the life of the city as it wakes to another day, of its aspirations and follies and political posturings, then deeper and deeper into the rushing water and into something like a female life-story…” London’s Daily Telegraph simply claims: “Fouéré’s bold, funny and eloquent drama might just be life-changing.”

JUMPY
By April De Angelis
26 March to 16 May 2015, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Opening Night: Saturday 28 March 2015

Comedy icon Jane Turner (Kath & Kim) heads the cast of Jumpy, the delicate West End comedy by April De Angelis woven from frazzled hopes and parental anxiety. Hilary is turning 50, her marriage is failing, her job is going nowhere and her teenage daughter is feral. To top it off, she’s coming to terms with the fact that, eventually, every liberal, former protestor and fair-minded parent finds themselves at the head of a dictatorship. Pamela Rabe, director of STC’s In the Next Room, or the vibrator play and Elling, will walk the line again between sweet comedy and poignancy at the helm of this Melbourne Theatre Company production.

ENDGAME
By Samuel Beckett
31 March to 9 May 2015, Sydney Theatre
Opening Night: Tuesday 7 April 2015

Furthering their investigation of Samuel Beckett following STC’s Waiting for Godot in 2013, Artistic Director Andrew Upton and Hugo Weaving (in his fifth STC show in as many years) team up again. Endgame is considered by many as the richly rewarding companion piece to the great playwright’s earlier existential farce. Weaving is the monstrous Hamm, mercilessly bullying his son Clov while his old parents, Nagg and Nell (Bruce Spence and Sarah Peirse), are kept in rubbish bins from which they occasionally emerge but never escape. Yet as inGodot, despite the apocalyptic bleakness, Beckett somehow brings extraordinary comic touches and pathos to what he portrays as the great despair of a ruined world. Set and lighting design are by Nick Schlieper and Weaving is part of the creative team too, collaborating with Upton as his Associate Director.

BOYS WILL BE BOYS
By Melissa Bubnic
16 April to 9 May 2015, Wharf 2
Opening Night: Saturday 18 April 2015

Danielle Cormack makes a welcome return to STC as the power-suited Astrid Wentworth, a currency trader in the dog-eat-dog world of frenzied buying and selling. Satirising this world of men, the play is abrasive and searing as it inverts all expectations of moral certainty. An STC commission, Boys will be boys is a smart, funny and risqué work by Melissa Bubnic, winner of STC’s 2010 Patrick White Playwrights’ Award.

BATTLE OF WATERLOO
By Kylie Coolwell
1 June to 27 June 2015, Wharf 1
Opening Night: Friday 5 June 2015

Kylie Coolwell’s debut play is an extraordinarily tender and compelling story of thwarted love. In a Waterloo apartment block, a community holds tightly together despite the pressures that bombard it daily. An exuberant cast of characters swirl through the building, blowing in great gusts of humour, pain, hope and disappointment. At the heart of this vibrant community is Cassie (Shari Sebbens), a promising young fashion designer with a great future ahead of her. But when her partner Ray (Luke Carroll) returns from a spell inside he brings with him the distracting forces of love, chaos and cops. STC Resident Director Sarah Goodes has been closely involved in the play’s development, nurturing it through early incarnations at Playwriting Australia’s Redfern Salon and STC’s Rough Draft program. Confirmed casting also includes Hunter Page-Lochard and Roxanne McDonald.

LOVE AND INFORMATION
By Caryl Churchill
9 July to 15 August 2015, Wharf 1 Theatre
Opening Night: Saturday 11 July 2015

With Love and Information one of Britain’s greatest living playwrights, Caryl Churchill, explores the curse of the information age and the search for meaning in society. A dizzying kaleidoscope of more than a hundred characters reveals different, tantalising vignettes of life. The play questions how we reconcile the daily bombardment of facts, gossip, news feeds – the blather of modern life – with our often too-fractured relationships with those around us. For STC’s co-production with Malthouse Melbourne, Resident Director Kip Williams collaborates with designer David Fleischer and a cast including Glenn Hazeldine, Anita Hegh, Zahra Newman, Alison Whyte and Ursula Yovich.

THE PRESENT
After Anton Chekhov’s Platonov
By Andrew Upton
4 August to 19 September 2015, Sydney Theatre
Opening: Saturday 8 August 2015

Variously known as Wild Honey, Fatherlessness, Play without Title and Platonov, Anton Chekhov’s first play was unknown at all until it was discovered in 1920 in a safety-deposit box 16 years after the playwright’s death. Roughly four hours of existing theatrical material revolving around Chekhovian tropes of lust, longing, vodka and shattered dreams, imbued with the familiar warmth, humour and insight, will be distilled into a new play by Andrew Upton, entitled The Present. All the drama is fuelled by near-nuclear collision of two soul mates, Mikhail Platonov (Richard Roxburgh) and Anna Petrovna (Cate Blanchett). Having last played opposite each other on stage in STC’s much-loved production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, adapted by Upton, these two actors will dig out the sorrow, the heartache and the hilarious tragedy of love foiled for all the wrong reasons – money not the least of them. STC welcomes Irish director John Crowley, renowned for his work on the West End and Broadway, making his Australian debut.

DEATH AND THE MAIDEN
By Ariel Dorfman
28 August to 10 October 2015, Wharf 1
Opening Night: Tuesday 1 September 2015

Set against the backdrop of an unnamed South American post-dictatorship state, Ariel Dorfman’s breathtaking international hit play, Death and the Maiden, tells the story of a woman for whom memories are a prison. Years ago, she was blindfolded and tortured for her politics. She never saw her captor but she did hear him. When her husband invites a stranger to their isolated beach house, she’s sure she knows that voice. In 1992 STC presented the Australian premiere of the scorching new play which went on to tour throughout Australia. Now for a new co-production with Melbourne Theatre Company, Leticia Cáceres directs Susie Porter and Eugene Gilfedder for a heart-stopping night at the theatre.

ARMS AND THE MAN
By George Bernard Shaw
14 September to 31 October 2015, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Opening: Friday 18 September 2015

Richard Cottrell directs George Bernard Shaw’s classic Arms and the Man, collaborating with the design team of Julie Lynch and Michael Scott-Mitchell to create a sumptuous period confection. As the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885 rages, the lovely Raina (Andrea Demetriades) is engaged to the gallant and posturing war hero Sergius. When a fugitive Swiss soldier, Bluntschli (Mitchell Butel), escaping the battle field, abruptly lands in her bedroom, he initially seems threatening. But he quickly reveals he’d prioritise chocolate bullets over real ones any day. Raina has no option but to fall in love. With his rapier wit, sparkling dialogue and intriguing subplots, Shaw yet again skewers the hypocrisies of the human condition while taking a dig at the romanticisation of both love and war.

ORLANDO
From the novel by Virginia Woolf. Adapted by Sarah Ruhl.
9 November to 19 December 2015, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Opening Night: Friday 13 November 2015

In Orlando, Sarah Ruhl’s (In The Next Room, or the vibrator play) adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel about sex, love and history, the audience is taken on a glorious journey of time travel and gender bending with Jacqueline McKenzie. This enchanting frolic through the ages tells the story of a young man in the court of Elizabeth I with whom many fall in love, including the Queen herself. After a particularly debauched night in Constantinople, he awakes from a long slumber to discover he is now, without any doubt, a woman. She must now find her way back home. The ensuing adventure takes almost four hundred years as she tries to work out what it actually means to be a human being, grappling with the massive changes that take us from the beginning to the end of the Age of Enlightenment. STC Resident Director Sarah Goodes directs the Australian premiere of this whimsical and literary nugget.

KING LEAR
By William Shakespeare
24 November 2015 to 9 January 2016, Sydney Theatre
Opening Night: Saturday 28 November 2015

Rising to the challenge of a role that is said to be the “Everest of classical acting”, Geoffrey Rush is back at STC for the first time since 1993 when he played opposite newcomer Cate Blanchett in David Mamet’s Oleanna. Director Neil Armfield has been a more recent visitor when he directed STC’s unforgettable The Secret River in 2013. The long-shared history, experience and passion of these two leading Australian artists will make for a startling production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, the master portrait of a man in decline confronting the perpetual battle between good and evil. In other inspired casting already confirmed for the ensemble that will surround the king, Robyn Nevin is The Fool, Mark Leonard Winter plays Edgar and Meyne Wyatt is Edmund.

SPECIAL SEASON OFFERS

Two other shows complete STC’s offerings of 2015

STORM BOY
By Colin Thiele
Adapted for the stage by Tom Holloway
24 April to 17 May 2015, Wharf 1 Theatre
Opening Night: Saturday 25 April 2015

A return season of Colin Thiele’s much-loved Storm Boy adapted by Tom Holloway – STC’s 2013 co-production with Barking Gecko Theatre Company – plays in Sydney and on a regional tour in 2015. Directed by John Sheedy, the play follows Storm Boy as he roams the savage landscape of the Coorong, picking up some unlikely friends including the enigmatic Fingerbone Bill and a family of orphaned pelicans, including his favourite, Mr Percival.

THE WHARF REVUE 2015
Written and created by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott
21 October to 19 December 2015, Wharf 1
Opening Night: Thursday 22 October 2015

STC’s perennial favourite, The Wharf Revue, is back for a 15th birthday celebration of satirical histrionics in 2015. As ever, there will be up-to-the-second sketches on whichever cultural malaise or governmental gaffe is news of the day. But no birthday party is complete without a dose of nostalgia, so there’ll also be a parade of past indignitaries – a who’s who of 21st century embarrassments, from politicians to celebrities.

TRAVELLING NORTH

Bryan Brown makes a welcome return to the theatre in the Sydney Theatre Company's current revival of David Williamson's TRAVELLING NORTH
Bryan Brown makes a welcome return to mainstream theatre as Frank in the Sydney Theatre Company’s current revival of David Williamson’s TRAVELLING NORTH

David Williamson’s play TRAVELLING  NORTH is now 35 years old. Many people will know this piece from the film adaptation which starred the late Leo McKern as the larrakin, left wing, classical music loving Aussie, Frank.  For the current Sydney Theatre Company revival, directed by STC’s Artistic Director Andrew Upton , Bryan Brown is well cast in the role.

Playing opposite Brown is  Alison Whyte  as Francis. What a fine performance she puts in, especially considering how she came in late in the rehearsal period after Greta Scacchi pulled out due to a back injury. She is a warm, confident performer and came across as being well suited to the role of this good natured, warm hearted woman.

A recently formed couple and newly retired, Frank and Frances decide to make  a sea change and leave their Melbourne digs and move up to North Queensland where  the weather is warmer and  the people are  friendlier.  What starts out as a great idea becomes infinitely more complicated when Frank’s health takes  a serious turn for the worse, his heart starts going on him, and Francis’s grownup children put pressure on her to return. The best laid plans of a happy retirement begin to fall apart….

Williamson puts in a lot of light touches, particularly his trademark witty lines, into what is a  bit of a sad tale. Plenty of humour is generated out of the encounters  that  Frank has with the local medic, Saul, really well played by Russell Kiefel, as Frank  tries to get to the bottom of  his condition. It becomes tricky to work out who the Doctor is, and who is the patient!

Another great  source of humour is the character of their newly acquired nerdy neighbour, Freddy. This was another fine comic performance, delivered by Andrew Tighe. Tighe had the audience in hysterics with every entrance, dressed  in short shorts and  appearing at the most inappropriate of times.

Harriet Dyer came across strongly in the role of Frances’s needy, bitchy daughter, Helen, whose husband leaves her. Frank displays little sympathy for Helen, ‘you can’t blame him for leaving, after being married for five years to that tongue’!

There’s so  much to like about TRAVELLING NORTH.  The play still works a treat.  Upton ‘s production disappointed in one main  way. This was  in the staging- in the set design. There was nothing in the design to convey the lure, natural beauty and sensuality of life in the tropics, which had so much to do with Frank and Frances leaving their Melbourne  home and comfort zone. The sparse set basically comprised different levels of platforms. So disappointing…

This current revival of TRAVELLING NORTH plays Wharf 1, the Sydney Theatre Company, until the 22nd March, 2014.