David Williamson is an iconic Australian writer, although many people believe his plays are dated and don’t reflect today’s world. The Perfectionist is certainly not contemporary, but many of its ideas and topics still have echoes in the current world. The main problem is that the issues are so numerous that at times the ideas become muddled.
The play has Barbara and Stuart, an academic Australian couple, as its main characters. Stuart has taken his family to Denmark for a six-month stint and is working at the university whilst striving to perfect his PhD, which he has been working on for nine and a half years. The conflict starts with Barbara wanting to employ a male babysitter, Erik, to care for their three sons whilst reading a book on open marriage and feeling she would like to complete her PhD! Female equality, marital balance of power, trust, alcoholism, parental approval and the ideological battle between communism and socialism are just some of the topics covered.
As Barbara, who also provides the narration, Cheryl Douglas is ideal, although occasionally a little too contained. This is a complex role and it stretches Douglas to her limits, but she meets the challenge. Ross Vosvotekas as Stuart does not do as well. This may be because his role as director inhibited his performance, but at times he seems too detached and uninvolved from the role. As Erik, the Danish babysitter, Chris Knight is infuriatingly calm, which is just as the character should be. The only distraction is his accent, which may be authentic, but how would we know? Experienced actors Kim York and Rick Mills, Stuart’s parents, have many of the laugh lines and know how to deliver them. They don’t shirk on the serious stuff either – well played.
The 70’s music helped set the scene. The set in Denmark was of the era and seemed a non-descript apartment that visiting academics would rent but the Australian home, whilst authentic for the era was more “council house chic” than I would imagine thinking university people would embrace. The set also contained a few strange pieces that seemed distracting; a hanging chess set? Amanda Jane Bell’s costumes were fun, at least for the ladies, and seemed to fit the times and the characters. The lighting was uneven and at times hit and miss which proved another distraction.
We all need a little Williamson in our life and if you don’t dig too deep this is an enjoyable night at the theatre.
Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Venue: Bakehouse Theatre, 255 Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 24 July – 8 Aug
Duration: 1hr 50mins
Tickets: Adult $28, Conc. $25