March 23-25, 1984 plays
Scenes from Woody Allen’s God
Program for July 22 1984 Festival of one-act plays
The following review was written by Brendan Doyle:
Theatre thriving at Blackheath
What’s so special about an evening with the Rhodo Theatre in the Masonic Hall at Blackheath!
I found out last Sunday when I went along to see three one-act plays, presented by Blackheath’s theatre company, in conjunction with the Lithgow Theatre Group.
First of all, it’s the way they manage to turn this otherwise nondescript hall into a warm, friendly space.
You are met at the door by a pretty, smiling face, then sit down at tables where groups have formed and people are drinking wine… a good way to start the evening.
Here you don’t have that awful passive feeling of sitting in long rows of numbered seats that you have in so many commercial theatres, where it’s all so impersonal, and you have the impression of paying to be a voyeur for a couple of hours.
Here there is a feeling of community and it’s a good feeling.
First up was “The Boat” by Jill Shearer, an Australian play, directed by John Mills. We were fascinated by the set before the play even begins: a rowing boat is sitting there on the floor, and nearby a TV set and a lounge.
The occupant of the boat is a middle-aged businessman who has been sacked from his job and copes with the shock by withdrawing into a kind of madness. He spends his time “fishing” in his living room from the boat.
His son brings his girlfriend home (a social worker) and she makes a weak attempt to bring him back to reality. It doesn’t work, because his wife and son are content to let Dad cope in the way he seems to want to.
In striking final image, we see Mum and Dad in the back of the boat, and the son in the front with his fishing rod whistling “Red Sails in the Sunset”.
Lesley Wright was convincing as the tolerant wife whose only plea is that Dad be left alone by the outside world.
Henry Lohse, a bit too old for her son, otherwise gave a believable performance. For Cheryl Brown, it was her first performance in a straight play and she carried it off well. And John Mills as old Sel brought the right mixture of vagueness and pathos to the central role.
I felt there was a lack of tonal variation in the production. More light and shade, pauses and changes of rhythm would have made the play even more enjoyable.
The theme of the play is an eternal one: The way people deal with loss of self-esteem by escaping into eccentricity and unreality.
In “A Sense of the Ridiculous” by Rae Terence, we have an age-old theatre trick.
The devil comes to dine at the house of unsuspecting hosts, this time in the guise of an Irishman who’s full of the blarney. A lot of good one-liners, gags and surprises in the script, from the very first when the “body” of the Irishman comes to life in a house where the mother and uncle of a woman doctor have so far poisoned 22 guests.
They try the same trick on the devil, but he simply says, after enjoying the meal: “A little bit too much strychnine in the elderberry wine, but the ground glass in the scones was delicious.
We find out later that the woman doctor has actually just got out of a mental institution, and the play ends with her going off after her mother and uncle Henry with a meat-axe.
As in the first play, levels of reality and unreality intermingle.
A tight presentation with good use of pauses, silences, looks and hesitations created the desired eerie effect on the audience.
Paul Dowsey was excellent as the Devil, with a nice blend of humour and menace.
Maurice Cratchley was just right as the somewhat vacant killer Uncle Henry. Margaret Cole as the Mother was a wonderful comic character and Rebecca Phillips as the “Doctor” was a nice cool contrast to her zany companions.
A well-controlled production by Bevilee Trevor Jones for the Lithgow Theatre Group.
The central idea of “Down Came a Jumbuck” by Ian Austen is a sure-fire winner. It is to present the young office-clerk Banjo Paterson in the throes of writing the words of “Waltzing Matilda”, with the help of his employers who are running an advertising agency.
Unfortunately it is difficult to sustain a whole play’s action around a single idea, and it all seems to become too predictable as each line of the song unfolds.
But this weakness in the script was amply compensated by the confident performances of David Kerslake as the employer, Linda McLaughlin as his partner, and Graham Gould as the young Banjo.
The pace was right, and all the humour of the relationship between the budding poet and his superiors was well brought out.
All in all, a fine evening at Blackheath in spite of the weather, and all three plays should be well received when they go to the one-act