There was a huge response to the Silver Gull Play Award this year, with the plays displaying a wide variety of subject matter and a high standard of writing.
The shortlist of five was particularly strong, with three other plays being given a ‘Highly Commended’.
The judging panel of Annie Bilton (former Literary Manager, Griffin Theatre Co; Play Assessor, New Theatre), Louise Fischer (Artistic Director, New Theatre), Patrick Howard (freelance theatre-maker; Play Assessor, New Theatre), John Keightley (actor; Play Assessor, New Theatre), Joy Minter (Director, The Buzz From Sydney), Katie Pollock (award-winning playwright) and Luke Rogers (Artistic Director, Canberra Youth Theatre) didn’t have an easy task. But, after much deliberation, a winner was selected.
AUSTRALIA DAY playing at the New Theatre is a lot of fun. That could be it. That could be all I need to write. “Go and see it. It’s a good comedy!”
Ah but …. I love an “Ah but” moment in the theatre. Jonathan Biggins doesn’t write in one dimension, he’s not a single noun kind of scribbler. Few national treasures are and AUSTRALIA DAY is a whole mess of naming words. All of which add up theatrical storytelling of the finest, most entertaining, kind.
We meet the Australia Day Committee of the small fictional town of Coriole, including a mayor with aspirations to be on the ticket for the House of Reps. Cushy job in Canberra would be nice and Bryan Harrigan is a man with an eye for the main chance. As is Helen. She’s a member of The Green Party and pretty green. Robert is the chair and often umpire. Maree is the CWA rep and Wally is a leftover from the days when men ruled empires and could say and do as they liked. At their first meeting for next year’s events, there are concerns in committee about how the changing population of Coriole is affecting the traditional way of celebrating a national day. Enter Chester.
Chester is the school rep by default on the committee. He’s a teacher and from an Asian background. That means Chinese to Maree and Wally, it’s a tough room! Lap Nguyen gives us such a fun character here. Self-deprecating, amused beyond belief at the rest of this committee, not above baiting their prejudices and guilelessly positive. Chester is beautifully written of course. Continue reading AUSTRALIA DAY COMMITTEE FORMED BY PLAYWRIGHT JONATHAN BIGGINS→
I had a quick bite before seeing MOTHER CLAP’S MOLLY HOUSE in Newtown last night, and the meal was, sadly, disappointing. The best I could say for it was that it was warm and filling. Unfortunately, on a scale of one to fabulous, MOTHER CLAP’S MOLLY HOUSE, a play with songs by Mark Ravenhill and music by Matthew Scott, didn’t even get to warm and filling. Much too long, uninspired writing and equally mundane musical numbers and choreography made this promising play a bit of a dud.
When Mrs Tull’s husband dies and she is left in charge of their dress hire shop, she overcomes her self-doubt to continue on with business as usual. Business is conducted with the local whores, but looks to go downhill almost immediately, until she finds her apprentice Martin and some other blokes playing dress-ups in the skirts. She quickly realises that she can still make a buck, setting up a male brothel, the Molly House of the title. Continue reading Mother Clap’s Molly House @ The New→
Neither silk purse nor sow’s ear, New Theatre’s production of Richard Bean’s HARVEST turns up a few entertaining truffles in this shambling, sprawling family saga.
HARVEST maps a century of struggle for the Harrisons, Yorkshire pig farmers, whose patch of piggery was won from the local squire by a canny ancestor.
The play begins at beginning of the First World War with the current sty councillors, William and Albert, battling it out over which one should sign up for the great adventure. Continue reading Harvest at The New→
The collapse of energy trading giant Enron in 2001 was a bankruptcy of massive proportions, not just financially but also morally. The entire company was in thrall to its share price and would do anything to see it surge higher and higher.
The opening of Lucy Prebble’s play ENRON is a spectacle comprising the massed ranks of the Ensemble, with the front-of-stage energy traders chanting their mantras in homage to the supposedly free market.
However, Enron the company was based not on free-market principles but on impenetrable financial engineering. And Enron pursued profits with such tenacity that it would sooner see swaths of California plunged into blackouts rather than lose a single dollar in profit.
The play’s opening scene is reminiscent of the great Nazi rallies at Nuremberg and even the infamous Enron “E” logo takes on ominous swastika overtones. The cult of Enron was masterminded by president Jeffrey Skilling (played with creepy manipulative skill by Matt Young) in the service of George W Bush’s great friend, the chairman Ken “Kenny Boy” Lay (Peter Flett). Even the initially innocent and blundering chief financial officer Andy Fastow (Nick Curnow) becomes caught up in the web.
The monsters he and the rest of Enron have unleashed are symbolised, rather bizarrely, by several “raptors” in a cage behind his desk, the vicious dinosaurs scratching and hissing as he hatches his dodgy schemes. In other light-hearted moments among the financial chicanery, investment bank Lehman Brothers is portrayed by two simple young boys and auditors ARTHUR ANDERSEN as corporate yes men. On the other hand, some of the most callous dialogue is taken from Enron energy traders’ actual taped conversations.
Director Louise Fischer handles the play and the substantial cast well, and although the opening night performance at times appeared not to quite gel, it will undoubtedly acquire more polish as the play’s run progresses. Thanks to Fischer’s direction, the complicated financial shenanigans never become unclear and interest is maintained right until the end, when the whole shoddy corporate edifice collapses.
Louise Fischer’s production of ENRON opened at the New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown, corner of Alice Street, on Thursday 6th June and plays until Saturday 29th June, 2013.
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