Reviewed by David Smith
22 May 2012
David Williamson’s Don’s Party has in some ways become a 1960s period piece. Megan Dansie’s production captured the era well yet also clearly showed the play’s more timeless social themes and observations.
The production had life, humour and a brisk pace. As the action moved into Act 2, the underlying sadness of a number of the relationships successfully mirrored the increasingly dismal tally-room news of the 1969 Federal Election.
Ole Wiebkin’s set was functional and interesting, providing enough variety of settings for the action but without clutter. The upstage areas such as the patio worked especially well. The 60s costumes were effective and authentic, as was the selection of LPs on the gramophone.
The play is a series of encounters between those at the party. Ben Crisp, as the ostentatiously vulgar and sexist Cooley, was central to the best of them. While Cooley is somewhat overdrawn, Crisp managed that without resorting to caricature. His interactions were natural and convincing, especially with Mack, engagingly portrayed by Thorin Cupit, and in his crude Barossa reminiscences to the conservative Simon, effectively sustained by Anthony Vawser.
Steve Marvanek showed Don’s vulnerability, especially when faced with the dismissive domination of Kath (Georgia Stockham), while Paul Rodda’s Mal had some strong moments, especially in the final scene. Celeste Aldahn was subtle and convincing as the superficially cool Jody, and Claire Glenn evoked Kerry’s required brashness.
Some ensemble work could have been strengthened as could some transitions, particularly those involving mimed conversations downstage.
In all, the production combined humour with pathos, and succeeded in examining the universal questions of loyalty, love and unfulfilled promise.