Venue: ARTS Theatre, 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: March 17-19 and 23-26 at 8pm, Matinees 19 & 26 at 2pm
Duration: 2hrs 30min incl interval
Tickets: adult $20/conc $17/students under 18 $9
Bookings: BASS 131 241 or http://www.bass.net.au or Venuetix 8225 8888 or http://www.venuetix.com.au
Director, Ian Rigney, has assembled an impressive cast for Therry’s latest production, the play written in 1978 by Kenneth Ross which was rewritten by Ross and Bruce Beresford to become the iconic film of the same title in 1980. Although the play is very much biased towards Morant, and the other two who were tried with him, there is much evidence to suggest that they were guilty as charged, even though they were made to be the scapegoats for higher ranking officers up to, and including, Lord Kitchener. They claimed that they had been following his direct orders. Rigney has crafted an excellent piece of theatre, using his forces to great advatage in building and maintaining tension.
Matthew Randell does a fine job in the role of Lt. Harry Morant (9 December 1864 – 27 February 1902), known both as Harry Harbord Morant or, earlier in his life, as Edwin Henry Murrant. His nickname, The Breaker, came from his skill in breaking wild horses. Randell nicely portrays the English born horseman, poet and soldier in a fully developed characterisation, bringing out the complexity of the man.
Rowan Elliott Hopkins and Luke Budgen play Lt. Peter Handcock and Lt. George Witton respectively, Morant’s co-accused, in two more superb characterisations. There is much convincing interplay between these three actors, setting up their relationships clearly and giving us a strong picture of their part in the events.
Representing them is the inexperienced lawyer, Maj. James Thomas, who had only a day to prepare his case. Paul Rodda excels in the role, demonstrating, through his strong characterisation, all of the frustration and anger at being continually overruled and unable to get any headway towards leniency for his clients and access testimony from Lord Kitchener.
Major Charles Bolton is the opposing counsel, played with a balanced approach by Stephen Bills. Bills pursues the line imposed on Bolton but allows us to see that he, too, is not entirely happy with the conduct of the three separate trials.
Russell Starke, in an all too rare stage appearance, presides over the Courts Martial in the role of Lt. Col. Henry Denny, pinc nez perched on his nose and fly whisk in hand, looking every bit the English gentleman soldier abroad. He gives a commanding performance in the role, running roughshod over the defence in his efforts to keep Lord Kitchener out of any involvement and bring things to a swift and politically satisfactory conclusion.
There is strong support from all of the others in the cast, making this a well rounded production and a credit to everybody involved.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor Glam Adelaide.