Influence

The Guild is currently showing that it is possible to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, with this fine production of David Williamson’s rather unexceptional play.

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Influence - Uni of Adelaide Theatre GuildPresented by the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild
Reviewed Sat 8th May 2010

http://www.adelaide.edu.au/theatreguild/

Venue: Little Theatre, Cloisters, University of Adelaide.
See the map here for the location of the theatre: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/theatreguild/location/
Season: Tues-Sat 11-15 & 18-22 May at 7.30pm
Duration: 2hrs with 20 min interval
Tickets: Adult $25, Conc. $20, under 30s $29
Bookings: Theatre Guild on 8303 5999 or online. Phone credit card bookings on 8303 5999 ($3 fee applies, per booking not per ticket). and tickets can also be booked through BASS on 131 246 (fee applies) or www.bass.net.au.Tickets are also available for purchase at the theatre on the night of the performance subject to availability (cash sales only). Tickets should be collected at the Little Theatre box office no later than 10 minutes before the advertised starting time.

The Guild is currently showing that it is possible to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, with this fine production of David Williamson’s rather unexceptional play. Williamson’s characters are somewhat one-dimensional stereotypes, little more than caricatures but, under the unerring guidance of director, Brant Eustice, they are brought to life in a way that, unfortunately, did not even begin to happen in the professional production a few years back. A big part of Eustice‘s success is attributable to his excellent casting and the rest to his wonderful ability to read beyond the surface text, adding other layers and creating a more complex sub-text than the script might suggest.

Ziggi Blasko is a loud-mouthed, self-opinionated, bigoted, racist, sexist moron who works as a ‘shock jock’ at a Sydney radio station. His wife, Carmela, a former ballet dancer, who once had a lead role when other dancers were too ill to perform and now, having recently had a baby, thinks she is going to make her come-back, is a self-centred, delusional, right royal pain in the derriere. They were made for one another.

Their lives are suddenly complicated by the arrival of both Vivienne, Ziggi’s depressed daughter from his first marriage, who has had a falling out with her mother, and Marko, Ziggi’s father, who admires Ziggi’s way of thinking and the thoughts that he expresses on air. The chauffer, Tony and the new maid, Zehra, add further complications and irritation to the lives of this unpleasant couple. To top it all off, Ziggi’s sister, Connie, constantly drops by, stirring up more trouble with her observations and suggestions.

If Ziggi’s on-air racist rants sound familiar, they should, as the work was inspired by the comments of Sydney radio personality Alan Jones who, it has been claimed, was largely responsible for stirring up the intense feelings that led to the Cronulla riots in 2005. We also get a passing reference to corruption, reminding us of the likes of John Laws and the ‘cash for comment’ scandals. Williamson’s plays so often have a ‘use by’ date and age quickly, but this one still has relevance. Ziggi ends the play by stating that “this country wants to hear what I’ve got to say” and, sadly, there is still a lot of truth in that.

Michael Eustice plays Ziggi in a suitably bombastic portrayal of this extremely unpleasant character. He handles with great skill the emotional changes as Ziggi’s home life crumbles and his professional career falters. Emily Branford is a perfect counterpoint in the role of Carmela. She avoids the trap of delivering everything at one level, allowing some of the fears and self-doubt to peep through, and she also brings out every bit of the comedy the role offers.

On opening night Brant Eustice stepped into the role of Marko, due to the illness of the actor who was to perform the role forcing him to withdraw the day before. Eustice did such a superb job in the role that one hardly noticed that he performed with script in hand.

Alicia Case gives a sterling portrayal of Zehra, giving her character a beautifully sympathetic interpretation. She brings a great tenderness to the role, endearing her character to the audience. Cate Rogers delivers some solid work as Connie, the voice of reason and catalyst for some very disruptive action by Marko. Tony Sampson’s well crafted interpretation of Tony gives us a caring man with a social conscience who stands up for his principles and for his co-worker, Zehra.

Kate Vanderhorst is a real find, brilliantly changing her entire demeanour with the sudden change as Vivienne swings from depressive to manic, with Ziggi ignoring the possibility of her being bipolar and celebrating the fact that she has simply snapped out of her bad patch and moved on.

An uncluttered design from Alia Guidace, allowing for plenty of movement, is well lit by Alex Ramsay, completing the picture and putting the focus firmly on the actors in this real winner of a show for the Guild.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor Glam Adelaide.

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