Tag Archives: Eternity Playhouse

Good Works

7 Nov

As a kid, I’d occasionally be dragged to Great Aunt Dot’s for slide night.

I’d fidget, as slide after slide of people I didn’t recognise slid by. Kat, who was second cousin to Joan. Or was it Shirley? Henry, who died young in a boating accident.

Now and then, when a random image did finally hold my childish attention, it would quickly slide away, replaced by another, and then another.

And Aunt Dot, God rest her soul, had no sense of chronology. Poor young Henry would be lost, and then he’d return, smiling confidently at the camera, seemingly magically unaware of what lay ahead. At the time I giggled; Aunt Dot was dotty. But now, older if not wiser, I guess at her purpose.

Nick Enright’s Good Works felt like one of Dot’s slide nights. Enright’s slides are far better composed, but they do just keep coming.

Director Iain Sinclair builds this challenge into a beautifully fluid production and the performances are wonderful. ( I could watch Toni Scanlan do her stuff eight nights a week.)

Set in old time Anglo Australia, Good Works is a meditation on class, family, and authentic moral behaviour. (‘Good works’ being the very Catholic assertion that our salvation is tied to our actions, not – as those horrid Protestants might have it – only to our faith. Of course, there’s a troubled heart to this doctrine. Good works, when so bound up with our own salvation, our own vision of morality, can struggle to seem a genuine attempt to reach out and help others. The tension between one-time childhood friends Rita and Mary Margaret provocatively suggests this issue, and it’s performed movingly by Taylor Ferguson and Lucy Goleby.)

Taylor Ferguson and Lucy Goleby. Photo (c) Helen White.

Taylor Ferguson and Lucy Goleby. Photo (c) Helen White.

This play typifies a strand of Australian theatre for which I am not the audience. It’s nostalgic. It’s non-cerebral. ( Nostalgic? Doubly so. Enright wrote it 20 years ago, about an Australia 30 odd years before that. And it’s non-cerebral because in a world defined by sex , repression and physical brutality, some of the characters may be canny, but none is allowed an intellectual life.)

These two elements combine to create a sentimentality that speaks to me as much as one of those slide nights. A night of people I didn’t recognise, sliding by in the darkness. But like Henry, whose smiling face would always make Aunt Dot’s eyes shine, they’re clearly recognisable to others.

Veronica Kaye

Good Works by Nick Enright

Eternity Playhouse til 29 Nov

Tix and info here


24 Apr

“The play was so well crafted that even a gifted director couldn’t ruin it.”*

This is one of the many very funny lines in Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, a hugely self-referential almost-parody of the thriller genre.

It is an exceedingly well crafted play. And director Jo Turner doesn’t ruin it. (That’s not to imply he’s not gifted.) Turner allows the actors to explore and fill the big playful characterizations this script requires.

Andrew Mc Farlane plays Sidney, the once successful playwright, desperate to relive his glory days. But how far is he willing to go to make this happen?

It’s difficult to discuss this play without spoilers. Let me just say that the performances are wonderful and the production is engaging.

Photo by Helen White

                   Photo by Helen White

I called it an almost-parody. If it was a total parody, then I think spoilers would be no problem; we’d be there for the humour, not the plot. But Deathtrap has it a little both ways. It’s hilarious, but there’s also genuine intrigue.

I found this duality unappealing. But then I find the whole thriller genre rather manipulative. I feel, that for the sake of the thrill, thrillers devalue human life. And they portray human nature in a most disturbing manner. In ‘thriller world’, people seem to commit murders the way they change superannuation plans.

But, of course, Ira Levin is fully aware of these type of criticisms. He has great fun with them. And clearly the audience I was part of enjoyed the show immensely…. and, I suspect, went off into the night quietly glad that thrillers are fundamentally dishonest.

Veronica Kaye

*Apologies to Ira Levin if I have misquoted. In ‘thriller world’ that’s cause enough for murder.

Deathtrap by Ira Levin

Eternity Playhouse til 10 May


Daylight Saving

10 Nov

Sometimes I wish I was one of those writers who confuse mean-spiritedness with wit, and word games with truth. If I was, I could have begun my response like this:

“Daylight savings; it’s so confusing! Do you gain an hour? Or do you lose an hour? See this production for the definitive answer. You lose two hours twenty.”

What critics forget, when they write this sort of nonsense, is that these jokes have no doubt already been made in the rehearsal room.

Daylight Saving by Nick Enright is simply a good bit of fun. And Adam Cook’s production is deliberately and delightfully daggy.

Photo by Helen White

Photo by Helen White

At the end of the show you do have to put your watch forward 25 years – because the play’s sensibly been left in its late eighties setting.

A light weight meditation on fidelity, loneliness and lost time, it’s peppered with crazy characters. A celebrity chef, a Wimbledon champion, a Stanford professor, and a host of others sit down to dinner around a table in Pittwater.

The cast have appropriate larks with all this. Rachel Gordon and Christopher Stollery get both laughs and sympathy as the troubled couple. Ian Stenlake is suitably charming and repulsive at turns as the visiting Yank. Belinda Giblin is a wonderfully audacious lady who lunches. (Diana Simmonds deserves a special mention as the voice of the interviewer. The ungenerous might say her performance was such that she was hardly present, but my tip is watch for her name at the next Sydney Theatre Awards.)

Enright’s play is conservatively structured, but shot through with giggle lines. And he gets the last playful laugh. Sitting in the middle of this (now) nostalgic extended sitcom is a thought-provoking exchange:

‘The play’s a crock of shit isn’t it?’

‘Yes. It’s a national classic.’

Veronica Kaye


Daylight Saving by Nick Enright

A Darlinghurst Theatre Production

Eternity Playhouse til 30 Nov


The MotherF**ker with the Hat

2 Oct

Who doesn’t love a guessing competition?

And the title’s not the most intriguing aspect of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ play.

It’s brilliantly written and brilliantly performed.

The story of addicts – both recovering and not – it’s a very funny and very moving exploration of truth telling.

There’s a marvelous scene in which Jackie (played by Troy Harrison) attempts to explain away an act of infidelity. It’s a tour de force of double talk. His cousin sums up his argument: ‘So except for the fact it actually happened, it didn’t happen.’

Lying to others and lying to yourself are closely related. The best liars lose themselves in the game, with disastrous consequences. It’s like being the hide and seek champion; in your victory you’re alone, undiscovered in some small dark cupboard, while the other kids have moved on to milk and cookies, love and laughter.

Photo by Kurt Sneddon

Photo by Kurt Sneddon

Adam Cook’s cast does a magnificent job. Troy Harrison’s Jackie is an eminently watchable and utterly lovable loser. He’s in love with Veronica, played by Zoe Trilsbach, who gives us a fireball of vivacious self assertion. John Atkinson is Ralph, Jackie’s sponsor. His is a powerful portrayal of self obsession masquerading as strength. Ralph’s wife Victoria, played wonderfully by Megan O’Connell, is sharp tongued and heartbreakingly vulnerable. Nigel Turner-Carroll’s Cousin Julio is a piece of comic genius.

So back to that guessing competition. If you guessed U C – congratulations! And if U C this show you’ll be rewarded with an excellent night of theatre.

Veronica Kaye


The MotherF**ker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Eternity Playhouse til 19th Oct


Every Second

9 Jul

There are a lot of angry and envious people in this play.

Ok, there are only four characters, but they’re all in the same situation; they desperately want children.

I’m the worst possible audience for this.

I don’t understand the basic motivation of the characters. I want a child about as much as I want a rhinoceros.

Photo by Louis Dillon-Savage

Photo by Louis Dillon-Savage

So, on one level, I found the whole thing rather frustrating. There’s a grand secret but I wasn’t let in on it. The only explanation offered for the character’s desires was that everyone else had children – which, of course, wasn’t meant as an explanation at all.

The characters are middle class Australians. In one sequence, Georgina Symes’ character says she can control everything except her own uterus, which is a statement of staggering self delusion. It’s a pity this incredible power is not being used to slow climate change or solve third world poverty.

Vanessa Bates’ play is cleverly constructed with plenty of good laugh lines. Shannon Murphy elicits from her cast strong performances. But I couldn’t like any of the characters. (Yes, I’m a bad person – the weirdo who doesn’t want children.)

The set by Andy McDonell is intriguing. It suggests the lake in the park. It suggests a woman’s reproductive organs. It suggests a vortex, dragging the characters down.  This is not a play about finding, or sharing, joy.

Veronica Kaye


Every Second by Vanessa Bates

Eternity Playhouse until 27 July



The Young Tycoons

22 May

It’s obvious who The Young Tycoons is about. And some of the best laughs of the show come from this cheekiness.

This is the third outing for C J Johnson’s play and it’s a lot of fun.

Director Michael Pigott elicits good comic performances from all his cast. Edmund Lembke-Hogan and Laurence Coy both offer an amusing take on the volatile mix of privilege and stupidity. Terry Serio shines as the gruff commonsense right-hand man. Paige Gardiner, as the model girlfriend of a young mogul, is charming and ditsy in all the right places. James Lugton is articulate, intelligent and charismatic as a “Ferguson” journalist. (I think it was “Ferguson”. Definitely some F surname. Definitely not Fairfax.)

Photo by Noni Carroll

Photo by Noni Carroll

The Young Tycoons is witty and engaging, though the large number of scene changes proves a challenge.

This is a very precise satire. (Some might think my choice of adjective euphemistic.) The play doesn’t expose, or explore, all the dreadful ramifications of concentrating immense power in the hands of an oligarchy. It focuses more on the personal lives of the two billionaire media families. The characters come across as reasonably likeable, and only minor injuries are sustained as they clumsily stumble on the discarded remnants of a whole lot of broken moral compasses.

So, is this satire without bite? Just a sort of celebrity gossip piece?

No, I think it draws attention to an extraordinary fault line in our society. The dramatic tension of this play is the divisive concept of ‘dynasty’. Are you really going to get to run the business just because Daddy did?

It’s truly bizarre, that in a heartless capitalist society driven solely by profits, we would still consider passing on power through bloodlines.

For me, the play is not just a gentle taunting of privileged rich kids. Rather, it’s a forceful reminder that an all-consuming materialism simply will not meet our human needs. Not even the needs of those, who drowning in excess, have lost their way.

Veronica Kaye


The Young Tycoons by C J Johnson

Eternity Playhouse til 15 Jun


The Gigli Concert

10 Apr

To be honest, I didn’t understand this play.

A man suffers from depression. (I appreciate the clinical term can misrepresent the experience.) The man runs a counseling service based on Dynamatology, a system of seeming psycho-babble. He gets no clients. One day another man knocks on his door and asks for help. He too suffers from depression. (see note above). I’m not sure he warms to the label. He doesn’t like philosophy or psychology. What he wants is to be able to sing like the opera singer Gigli. Their sessions begin. There is no attempt to teach him to sing.

Photo by Wendy McDougall

Photo by Wendy McDougall

Of course, I’m being facetious. Again. The singing is a symbol – of a life lived fully and passionately; of an eternal ‘yes’ saying; of a type of healing. I think.

I also think the fundamental dramatic quality is multiplicity; multiplicity of voices onstage, and multiplicity of responses offstage. No play speaks to everyone. This one didn’t speak to me. I didn’t understand the challenges faced by the main characters. And so the evening seemed too long. But clearly it spoke to a large number of the audience.  There were plenty of laughs, and that pin drop silence that suggests intense fascination and total immersion.

The play is often considered Tom Murphy’s masterpiece and John O’Hare’s production is top class. The cast (Patrick Dickson, Kim Lewis and Maeliosa Stafford) give extraordinary performances.

So what do I make of a night like this? Do I wallow in the sense of alienation it creates for me personally? Do I recall other productions when it seemed I was the only sympathetic ear?

What I can do is make a recommendation: this is quality, thought provoking theatre. Go see it for yourself.

After all, if the play said anything to me, it was as a paean to the virtue of listening. Our Dynamatologist realizes he is out of his depth, but he listens anyway. And the results are beautiful.

Veronica Kaye

The Gigli Concert by Tom Murphy

at Eternity Playhouse til 4 May