Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Theatre: When Dad Married Fury

by David Williamson
Directed and designed by John Senczuk
Featuring Jay Walsh, Alinta Carroll, Corinne Davies, Richard Mellick, Alison van Reeken, Lauren Lloyd Williams, Casey Edwards and Edgar Metcalfe
The Metcalfe Playhouse
Until 21 August

David Williamson has had a lucky break.
Love him or loathe him – and there are plenty in each camp – it’s Williamson’s ability to generate the pleasurable sensation of recognition for his audience that has kept him at the forefront of Australia’s playwrights for 40 years.
Alinta Carroll and Edgar Metcalfe
In his best work, that recognition comes from the universality, in particular the universal Australian-ness, of his characters; even in his lesser plays – and When Dad Married Fury is decidedly one of those – he maintains his touch for topicality.
For that, though, a little luck goes a long way: if you could choose a week to premiere a play about a wilful old man, his feisty, much younger, second wife, his dubious offspring and a loose email that brings them all undone, surely this would be it.
Alan Urquhart (Edgar Metcalfe) is the king of this minor Lear; his sons Ben (Jay Walsh) and Ian (Richard Mellick), and his daughters-in-law Laura (Alinta Carroll) and Sue (Alison van Reekin) are its Goneril and Regan. There’s no obvious candidate for Cordelia here, though Urquhart’s favourite grandchild Adele (Lauren Lloyd Williams) and even his fundamentalist American bride Fury (Corinne Davies) play her in part. Throw in Adele’s problematic friend Sonya (Casey Edwards), spend a couple of hours calculating all the different ways a dubiously-gotten $100 million Aussie can be divided, and you’ve got it in a nutshell.
As you’d expect, there’s plenty of local interest and the issues of the day in the mix. Fury, whose own fortune was made in furry greeting cards (not such an outlandish concept, as anyone who’s been to a Hallmark gift shop will attest), is an acolyte of Sarah Palin, complete with her grab-bag of prejudice and nostalgic fantasies. Adele and Sonya fell for each other at WAAPA where, we are to gather, that sort of thing is only to be expected.
There’s the unmistakable odour of WA Inc in Urquhart’s style of investor relations, and plenty of people around WA would feel vindicated if a couple of this state’s most prominent family fortunes met the same fate as his does.
There’s little cause for deep reflection in either the script or the performances, though some of the cast make the most of their wafer-thin characters. I liked Davies’s Fury, more Grizzly Mama than Sex Bomb, and when she turns out to have more to her than you expect, it’s a surprise but not a shock. Walsh’s Ben seems more of a genial master of ceremonies than a flesh-and-blood character at first, but he becomes genuinely affecting as the play develops.
Mellick’s grasping corporate player, already rich and planning to be even richer, and Carroll’s smug philanthropist-in-waiting are well struck, while van Reekin could draw a crowd to a reading of the alphabet.
Metcalfe was a bit unsteady at times, a little like that other old stager in front of the Commons committee last week, but his Urquhart held together more often than not.
The whole affair was managed by director and designer John Senczuk in a front-and-centre declamatory style that, while it robbed the characters of much of the little individual humanity the script gave them, at least allowed the text a clearly audible reading in a new theatre space whose acoustics will prove a challenge for actors and directors.
An edited version of this review appeared in The West Australian link here 

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