by Hannie Rayson.
Cock Tavern Theatre 125 Kilburn High Road NW6 6JH To 11 September 2010.
Wed-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm Sun 4pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 08444 771000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 August.
Major Australian play needs more scope in London.
It’s a family joke to refer to their home as a hotel, in small town Sorrento on the Australian coast near Melbourne. And that city is writer Hannie Rayson’s home, aptly as her play asks how loyalties and lives impact on each other in what has been home for some of the family sisters, and might be regarded as a family hotel by the ex-pat siblings arriving from London after father’s death.
That’s in the second act, after a first which has trailed potential tensions, some emanating from Meg’s second novel, lightly-disguised autobiography Melancholy – the play starts with Marge pointing-out to partner Dick how the novel’s descriptions of place fit the area.
Whatever her triumph in English literary circles, on arriving home Meg faces challenges over the exploitation of the family. And, alongside questions of responsibility – to an individual vision, to family members – raised by Melancholy, and the effort Meg has to take to make anyone admit to reading it,. let alone talk about it, there are various perspectives on Sorrento, and by extension Australia, from those who have lived permanently there, those who return and the men the latter bring with them.
It’s taken Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s production at his Cock Tavern Theatre to bring to Britain a piece that’s been widely-performed, studied and also filmed in Australia, where it’s something of a modern classic. It’s probably too specifically Australian state-of-the-nation to become a wider classic – which is no bad thing. To cover one country is a considerable achievement.
But it would be good to see an Australian production in the UK. And on a larger scale than the Cock Tavern can provide. Designer Micka Agosta creates an ocean-side sense by making a pier of boards resting on tyres. But it fills the stage enough to constrict relationships and movements, atomising rather than creating molecular family structures out of the various sub-groups.
Performances too tend to focus on the meaning, and emotional content, of lines, rather than developing a forward momentum out of situations. It’s a bold choice of play but the boldness doesn’t carry-over into the production.
Wal: Martin Bendel.
Hilary Maggie Daniels.
Dick: Edmund Dehn.
Troy: Alex Farrow.
Pippa: Shelley Lang.
Meg: Alix Longman.
Marge: Ania Marson.
Edwin: Alec Walters.
Director: Adam Spreadbury-Maher.
Designer: Micka Agosta.
Lighting: Steve Lowe.
Composer: Nick Jones.
Assistant designer: Rebecca Chan.
Assistant lighting: Richard Hillier.
Assistant costume: Mia Gray.