Tag Archives: Belvoir

The Italians

28 Oct

Danny Ball’s The Italians is a fast and furious farce. It’s gloriously silly, and gleefully subversive.

The Italians are Australians. This is contemporary Sydney.

Director Riley Spadoro elicits fantastic comic performances from the entire cast. Here’s a few highlights. Teenage Maria, played by Amy Hack, delivers a dance number that is absolute gold, and not just because of the lamé outfit. Similarly, her love affair with Mikey the plumber, played by Philip D’Ambrosio, is brilliant bogan bombast. Doubling as elderly Giuseppina, D’Ambrosio in walking frame, holding court at the Catholic Club, handing out prescription drugs like homemade biscotti, is hilarious. Emma O’Sullivan as Patrizia, the Italian visiting from Italy, is delightfully audacious, and her turn as the Virgin Mary is miraculous. The two gay lovers, played by Ball and Brandon Scane, and cousin Luca, played by Nic English, are very funny and very real.   

Ball’s play is an exciting, intelligent and much needed interrogation of the concept of identity. As Maria says to her brother “Everybody’s gay now. Or at least queer. So you’re not special.” Who am I? is a question that resists definitive answer, at least when asked by a human being. But there are many reasons why we might assert an answer to that question – not all of them either wise or good.

The Italians challenges monolithic visions of what it is to be “Italian” in contemporary Australia. It does this through its playful awareness of stereotypes. It does it through the ongoing dispute as to the status of being Sardinian, Sicilian or Milanese. (Will the real Italian please stand up?) It does it through an onstage visit by Albo, the Australian prime minister with an Italian father. It does it when the only actual Italian character in the play screams at the rest You’re not Italian! And then there’s the absurdity of Ozzie. In a parody perfect portrayal by Deborah Galanos, decked in green, gold and uggies, sporting a blonde mullet, Ozzie complains he felt marginalised at his multicultural high school. It induces tears – of laughter.  And then there’s the end, which I can’t reveal because of the spoiler rule. Let’s just say it’s a mischievous invitation to consider who it is that constructs identities and asserts they are “realities”, and what they hope to gain.

Paul Gilchrist

The Italians by Danny Ball

Downstairs Belvoir, as part of 25A, until 6 Nov


Image by Katherine Griffiths

Tom Ballard: Boundless Plains to Share

16 Jan

As a dramatist, I don’t particularly warm to stand-up comedians, especially really good ones.

Stand-up seems like tennis played with the net down. (Writing a play is using the net as a tightrope, and chainsaws for balance.)

Boundless Plains to Share is about how we’ve put a net up and then popped razor wire on top: it’s about Australian policy towards asylum seekers. The title refers to the second verse of our national anthem.

In addition to being really funny, Ballard presents a history of the policy, and offers a solution to the ongoing issue.

Moral conundrum: When writing up a stand-up show, can you be guilty of a SPOILER?

Since our society has had trouble seeing any problem with the indefinite incarceration of children, I won’t be waiting for an answer to that one.


Image by Richard Hedger


So here’s the SPOILER: Ballard has no solution. Instead, he intelligently, humanely and humorously suggests we can do better than we’re doing now. (For starters, we could release all children being held in detention.)

All dramatists (or, at least, really good ones) know that there never are complete solutions.

The whole messy unpleasant business that is Life only ceases to throw up conundrums when you’ve retired from the business.

The best we can do is to try to do better.

Fortunately, when you’re doing so badly*, that’s really easy.

Paul Gilchrist

*Currently 50 children are being held in detention, and over 2000 adults. None of them have committed a crime.


Tom Ballard: Boundless Plains to Share

Belvoir, 13 – 15 January

This production has now closed. I was not invited to write about this show.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

24 Feb

It’s difficult to say anything intelligent about sex. Fortunately, it’s easy to say something interesting.

Is that just the way we’re made?

To prepare for a Tennessee Williams’ play, I drank a bottle and a half of bourbon, imagined men’s eyes boring through my clothes, and had my date rip open his shirt while yelling ‘VERONICAAAA!!!!’

It must have worked, because I enjoyed Simon Stone’s production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

I enjoyed the performances, especially Alan Dukes as Gooper and Lynette Curran as Big Mama.

I enjoyed the staging, with the turntable working both as a source of humour and tension.

I went away with plenty to think about. Like, how am I going to get me one of those turntables?

The world of Williams is one in which people are driven by animal passions, find that difficult to accept, and so lie to themselves.

This myth accounts for much of the popularity of Williams (that, and the fact he writes like angel.)

It’s a myth that well serves the needs of contemporary Australia. It tells us that we don’t have to live ethical lives. Or, more precisely, that the only moral demand upon us is the one to be truthful. We’re allowed to selfish. In fact, it’s natural.  The only crime is to pretend it’s not the way things are meant to be.

I’m probably talking in ridiculously general terms. (Perhaps I’m being passionately inaccurate.) But this myth is the meta-myth of the plays – the assumptions about  life so intrinsic to the work, that go so deep, that we have difficulty recognising them. Is this what makes  a great playwright? Someone who writes so well that we take their vision of life to be the thing itself?

Of course, in 1955, when it premiered, this play may have been valued for very different reasons. For example, its acceptance of homosexuality was probably groundbreaking. And who could pretend that issue has been resolved?

And let me use that idea to further illustrate my point. If we truly were the passionate creatures that inhabit the Williams’ world, why does it takes so long to resolve issues of obvious injustice? We are yet to legalise homosexual marriage. So many of us are supposedly passionate about it. Yet what have we personally done about it?

That is why the myth is attractive. We use it to tell ourselves that our self obsession is exciting, that as we pay our mortgages and perfect our Pad Thais we’re doing something thrilling.

We’re not.

Let us be truly passionate.

Veronica Kaye

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Belvoir, then Theatre Royal, til April 21


Peter Pan

13 Jan

Children need adults. And adults need children.

In a full life, reason must co-exist with imagination, knowledge with innocence, security with surprise.

This is a very quotable play. In one of my favourite lines, Peter boasts “To die would be an awfully big adventure.”

Peter Pan is a rich myth, but it’s not a universal one. (This is no criticism; the desire for universals is an attempt to contain Life, which was far from Barrie’s purpose.)

The nineteenth century’s interest in childhood coincided with the decreased infant mortality rate. Suddenly, childhood as such could be valued. No longer was it merely a dangerous period, to be gotten through as quickly as possible.

And childhood became an effective contrast to adulthood.  Just as the Industrial Revolution (eventually) decreased infant mortality, it increased the division of labour. Work, and hence adult life, came to appear dreadfully dissatisfying. Peter, asked whether he ever wants to grow up, replies no; he doesn’t want to work in an office.

This tension between childhood and adulthood is a defining aspect of our culture. It has not been so in every culture. It is the result of our privilege.

Many contemporary stories, particularly Hollywood comedies, are the stories of men who refuse to grow up. But too often these stories imply that growing up means only fulfilling expectations and becoming conventional.

Barrie’s story, however, gives a more persuasive vision of maturity. For him, growing up is caring and giving. He adores childhood imagination and innocence, but accepts they are not enough. We rightly adore children, but we cannot respect them.

I don’t want to give the impression this Belvoir production is dark just because it has depth. Far from it. It’s joyous. Tommy Murphy’s adaptation works wonderfully for both adults and children. Ralph Myer’s cast is absolutely terrific. Robert Cousins’ set is versatile and fun.

I began by suggesting this is a very quotable play. Barrie wrote Peter Pan as both play and novel. In this adaptation, Murphy takes a line from the novel and makes it the final line of the performance. Spoken by the mature Wendy, it is one of the most powerful, and shocking, in contemporary theatre.

Veronica Kaye

Peter Pan

at Belvoir til 10 Feb