This Dorothy Hewett script is a period piece set in the 1950s, describing life in a working class family in the Redfern district of Sydney. The setting is not really important, but as a time capsule of the attitudes, morals and society of urban Australian in that time period, it is still valid. Revolving around the disappointments, dreams and tragedies of the Dockerty family, the story is a depressing reminder of the difficulties that faced, and still do face, communities with high unemployment and low levels of education. We like to believe that our increased technology has improved the situation, but has it?
At the last preview performance of this production before opening night, there were still some rough spots. Ross Vosvotekas, who took on the mammoth task of directing this involved production, also plays the Aussie battler at the centre of this beleaguered family. His performance showed understanding, but lacked depth. Perhaps a symptom of being stretched too far, some of the lack of attention in other areas may also be caused by this. Cheryl Douglas does remarkably well as the mother. Lured away from her Bundaberg home where she was raised in comfort, into a forced marriage to a handsome, sweet-talking cane-cutter who now works for minimum wage in a factory, Laurie still sees herself as the belle of Bundaberg; she drinks to escape her depressing reality. Except for a few slightly overplayed moments Cheryl keeps the focus.
In the many other characters there is a mixture of talent and experience. In a play that depends so much on realism, some make-up and costuming decisions seem disappointing, but overall the set and costumes reflected the period. Graham Self did well as Don, the ‘ne’er do well’ son thinking the world owes him for his lousy childhood. Rachael Horbelt managed to make Pet, their mentally impaired daughter, believable, whilst Amy Victoria Brooks characterised the lonely English girl, Fay, well, but her accent failed to stand out as it should. As Julie and Lan, the young couple ‘in trouble’, Delia Taylor and Josh Battersby gave good performances, although Jarrad Parker and Emily McMahon also vie for the audience’s sympathy as Snowy and Edie. McMahon in particular is a standout.
This production will improve as it settles in, and it has its comic moments too, although at the preview many of them failed to fire. Still worth a look for the value of the script. Hewett, apart from being a great poet, wrote often on the struggles of women. She was a feminist and a communist, and the greatest victims in this piece are the women who do not have the power to shape their own destiny.
Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Venue: The Bakehouse Theatre, 255 Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 17 July – 3August
Duration: 2hrs + interval
Tickets: $23.00 – $28.00
Bookings: Bakehouse Theatre website
Photo Credit: Photo by Marjorie Rose Butler