Presented by Red Phoenix Theatre
Reviewed 10 November 2016
David Williamson’s Don’s Party, is undoubtedly one of the stalwarts of the contemporary, Australian theatre canon. And with good reason: it is a finely crafted play.
The same cannot be said for this 2011 sequel. His work has been of questionable quality for some time now, but this is a particularly lazy piece of writing. Using constant references to the original play, along with the twee device of having had Don write a book about them all, Williamson has just rehashed his characters and his own work. None of the characters have grown, or really changed: they’ve just aged. The ploy of having Cooley turn up with an oxygen tank is particularly sloppy.
The action takes place around the 2010 election, and the same structure as the original is in place: real recordings of ABC coverage, interspersed with political commentary and personal conflict from the characters. The former is simplistic and clichéd and the latter is forced.
However, as a night at the theatre it is not without its charms. It has a warmth, and some humour, which the audience clearly appreciated. Wayne Anthoney as Don is, as always, a strong stage presence, although he seemed to be struggling with lines on opening night. Julie Quick as Kath is also strong, but needs to settle into a less theatrical, more naturalistic, delivery. Brian Godfrey does an excellent job as Cooley, as does Victoria Morgan as Helen. Sadly, Williamson is still under-writing the female characters, and Helen is almost just there for decoration.
Brant Eustice as Richard, holds his own, as does Lyn Wilson as Jenny. Younger actors Kate van der Horst as Belle and Jessica Carrol as Roberta both put in creditable performances, although Carrol needs to portray histrionics in some way other than just shouting all the time. Some vocal colour would add greatly to her work. Stand-out performance for the night was Adrian Barnes as Mal, who managed to eke some depth out of fairly thin material.
Michael Eustice directed his cast with a deft touch, allowing them some space in which to play and stretch.
I have no doubt this will be a popular play and garner appreciative audiences, if for no other reason than that Williamson has become a (albeit questionable) trusted brand in theatre. I applaud Red Phoenix for their commitment to Adelaide premieres, and I certainly think this is a commercially clever choice.
Expect a pleasant, non-confronting night in the theatre. Just don’t expect to come out quoting any lines.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Venue: Holden Street Theatres
Duration: 2 hours
Season: 10th-19th November 7.30 pm with 2pm performance on 13th November
Tickets; $15 – $21.50
Bookings: www.redphoenixtheatre.com or phone 8225 8888
Disclaimer: Brian Godfrey is the Arts Editor for Glam Adelaide