Marbles or more to the point losing one’s marbles is what has happened to poor Stanley. The play starts on Stanley’s 77th birthday. Stanley has Alzheimer’s. Natasha, his oldest daughter, has invited his two other daughters over to honour his birthday. The youngest daughter Amelia lives locally and has just had to leave her husband Rod and family for the day but Frances the middle daughter has travelled in from overseas for the celebration, if it can be called that.
How often do you see a funny existential play that examines the reason and nature of theatre, life, death, meaning and the sheer randomness of the universe?
A man, played impressively by Heath Ivey-Law, walks into a comfortable middle class lounge room, mistaking it for a toilet, sees the audience and is embarrassed. He attempts to go back out of the room but the door will not open. He unsuccessfully tries the doors on the other two walls which only leaves the invisible fourth wall. After some deliberately predictable miming the fourth wall does turn out to be impenetrable. The man is joined by a woman, played with confidence and humour by Jodine Muir, who mistakes the room for a toilet and similarly cannot escape the room. As they can see the audience they begin to wonder if they may be in a play. Neither character can remember anything prior to entering the room. In a profound and revealing question the woman asks, “Perhaps I didn’t exist before I walked on stage?”
The actors discuss the motivation and philosophies of the playwright, Simon Dodd, from various perspectives. The masculine and feminine perspectives are explored, and in this case the man is the more philosophical and cerebral character, whereas the woman is much more practical and grounded in this world. Plaything directly questions the relationships between playwrights, the actors, critics and the audience. Does the audience come for escapism, philosophical musings or for a challenging and thoughtful evening?
Plaything contains many theatre jokes and references. The actors attempt to work out what the next plot point could be and try to trigger events by calling out cues. Peter Adams performs well in his brief role and is one of these critical plot points. The young couple are joined on stage by an older couple, played with elegant and appropriate ham acting by Richard Cotter and Tricia Youlden, which gives the play another level of dynamism and an opportunity to explore youth, optimism and exuberance and to compare these attributes with experience, wisdom and the jaded acceptance of ones fate.
Simon Dodd’s PLAYTHING manages to be entertaining and philosophical whilst cleverly exploring why playwrights write, actors act and audiences go to the theatre.
PLAYTHING was performed at Factory Theatre, Marrickville as part of this years’ Sydney Comedy Festival.
Henry Crowley is a prominent Sydney CBD lawyer. Pompous and pragmatic, he lives with his wife, Margaret, in the safe, conservative suburb of St. Ives.
Henry, unaware of his wife’s previous job with ASIO, is also unaware that it is Margaret who wears the trousers in their marriage. She announces, over several martinis, that she has decided to take in an Iranian refugee from an Indonesian boat, awaiting the outcome of his asylum application, and introduces Ahmed Zahedi, a mathematics professor with a penchant for the theatrical.
Ahmed has already moved in, much to Henry’s horror, particularly as Henry is being interviewed for a feature article by a ruthless journalist from the Financial Review, Rhonda Harper. Before Rhonda arrives at their home, Henry’s cousin from Queensland, Micky Crowley, also arrives at their usually tranquil doorstep. Micky is a harmless, but obnoxious chronic gambler, badly dressed in shorts and thongs.
This is a wonderful entrée into a very effective comedy of errors. The actors all bring fresh and funny idiosyncrasies to their characters. Mark McCann is particularly enjoyable as bombastic Henry, Tricia Youlden brings great comic timing to her calm and controlling Margaret. Geoff Sirmai plays a quirky, eccentric Ahmed, Marc Kay brings vulnerability to a reckless and clumsy Micky and Brigid O’Sullivan is fabulous as the scheming journalist Rhonda.
This play is the 13th collaboration between writer Tony Laumberg and director Richard Cotter. Ten of these have been the well-known ‘Lawyer’ comedies, which have developed quite a cult following, particularly amongst Sydney’s theatre-going legal fraternity. Laumberg is not only a talented writer, but has a legal practice in his spare time! The play is well written and highly enjoyable under the clever direction of Cotter. What impressed me about the play is the lack of racism and clichés. The humour is inoffensive to all the characters that are represented, bringing a sense of balance to the comedy.
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE LAWYER plays the Tap Gallery, Darlinghurst, from Thursday 10th October to Sunday 27th October.
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