Mister Johnson • Glam Adelaide

Mister Johnson

This is another top quality production from Independent Theatre that should be on your ‘must see’ list, but hurry, as it closes on Saturday 1st May.

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Mister Johnson - Independent TheatreReviewed Friday 23rd April 2010
Presented by Independent Theatre Inc.

http://www.independenttheatre.org.au

Venue: Odeon Theatre, Queen Street, Norwood
Season: April 24, 28 – 30 at 7.30pm, April 25 at 4.00pm, April 27 at 6.30pm, May 1 at 2.00pm and 7.30pm
Tickets: Adults $30, Conc. $25
Bookings: http://www.independenttheatre.org.au/booking_tickets.html – phone (08) 8411 6661 for assistance

The latest production from Independent Theatre is based on Joyce Cary’s 1939 novel, adapted in 1956 by Norman Rosten. Cary is quoted as having said that it was his own favourite of his works and Bruce Beresford recently made a film version of this enduring story. Set in the 1920s, the two main characters are Johnson, a young African who is working as a clerk in the British district office at Fada, Nigeria, and his employer, the Assistant District Officer, Harry Rudbeck. Johnson is from another district but manages to marry a local girl, Bamu, whose family lead him into financial difficulties through their demands and continual threats to take her away from him if he fails to keep paying them. Rudbeck’s pet project is the completion of a road between Fada and the main highway, and his enthusiasm inspires Johnson.

Funding for this road, however, is insufficient and the pair begin cooking the books, borrowing money from other areas of the annual budget and unallocated funds with the intent of sorting it all out later. Things get out of hand, Johnson’s debts increase, and he begins to go too far, selling documents to the Waziri, the rascally Prime Minister to the Emir, and even imposing a toll on people travelling on the new road after it is completed. Rudbeck fires him and, drunk and desperate for money, he attempts to rob the local store, owned by Sergeant Gollup. Gollup catches him and, in the ensuing struggle, Johnson kills him. It is now the duty of Rudbeck to try Johnson for murder. He is found guilty and sentenced to hang.

Independent have long been known for the high quality of their productions and, more recently, they have expanded their horizons by involving local communities, with productions such as Indian Ink, A Passage to India, Cry the Beloved Country and now this production to their credit. Artistic Director, Rob Croser, has again found a cast that enables him to produce another of these works that nobody else around town even dare consider. Independent Theatre is definitely in a class of its own. David Roach has excelled himself, with a striking and constantly changing set, well lit by Matthew Marciniak, who employs a wide range of colours and subtle changes, and Sandra Davis and Judy Dillon have come up with a huge collection of fine costumes.

Croser’s direction brings out all of the playfulness in the opening scenes of the script, then smoothly transits to the darker moments as the piece progresses. He brings out some fine performances from his cast, many of whom have little or no previous acting experience.

Shedrick Yarkpai plays Johnson bringing an infectious enthusiasm to the role in a believable and energetic portrayal. He handles the transition from the light comedy of the early scenes to the tragic drama at the end with considerable skill. Adam Tuominen plays Rudbeck, adding another fine performance to his list of successes in a nicely measured and thoughtful performance.

There is strong support from Allen Munn as Rudbeck’s superior, Bulteel, the District Officer, and from Kate Wyatt, who oozes charm as Rudbeck’s very supportive new wife, Celia. Stella Chigoziri is delightful as Johnson’s wife, Bamu, Patience Diessa is full of life and energy as her conspiratorial half-sister, Falla, and Adolphus Waylee makes an imposing Waziri.

David Roach gives yet another of his sterling performances as the abusive, racist, alcoholic British ex-sergeant Gollup, owner of the General Store. The others in the cast all contribute well to the production with some fine moments in the minor roles.

This is another top quality production from Independent Theatre that should be on your ‘must see’ list, but hurry, as it closes on Saturday 1st May.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Glam Adelaide Arts Editor.

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