BWW Review: LET THE SUNSHINE at Domain Theatre, Marion

BWW Review: LET THE SUNSHINE at Domain Theatre, MarionReviewed by Barry Lenny, Thursday 4th May 2017

Galleon Theatre Company has turned to Australia's best-known playwright, David Williamson, and is presenting Let the Sunshine, under the director, Vicki Horwood. Williamson's plays are always very wordy, and this is no exception. With this wordiness, the need to find a replacement for the role of Ros at short notice, coupled with first performance nerves, lines were being stumbled over, had gaps, and were occasionally repeated. A few more rehearsals and much firmer direction from Vicki Horwood would have been in order. There is no lack of talent in this cast and, hopefully, some intensive reading of scripts to fix the shaky parts will see it all come together in the next couple of performances.

Toby is a left-wing documentary maker, but his last one had a factual error that is threatening to end his career. He and his wife, Ros, a very successful publisher, have fled Sydney and ended up in Noosa, in Queensland. He is trying to organise a new documentary, but the financial backing is not as easy to find as it had been. Ros is missing her friends and lifestyle in Sydney and he is unhappy with the way that the quiet seaside town of his memories has become a major resort, a sort of vast retirement home for the obscenely rich.

Their only acquaintances are Natasha, who attended the same school as Ros, but a year behind, a tenuous link, and her husband Ron, a right-wing real estate developer. Ros is an intellectual, but Natasha is more concerned with fashion, so they have little in common, and the opposing political views of the two men is a complete barrier to any friendship. As the only couple that they know in Noosa, however, Ros proposes them as a couple to go out to dinner with for Toby's birthday.

As it happens, Rick, the son of Toby and Ros, and Emma, the daughter of Ron and Natasha, both come to visit their respective parents and are invited to join the celebration. Rick is 30 and a would-be songwriter, encouraged by his parents, but with no work so far recorded and existing by making money collecting empty glasses at a bar. Emma is 33 and a high-flying corporate lawyer, expecting to be made a partner at any moment. This adds yet another level of conflict and the group breaks up at the pre-dinner drinks stage, cancelling the dinner.

Rick and Emma just happen to drop into the same bar for a quiet drink and, lowering their antagonism for each other's lifestyles, they begin to talk more openly, which leads to, well, they end up married with kids, and that is a trigger for profound changes in all of the combatants. Williamson is not above resorting to highly contrived and improbable narratives to put across his ideas.

Williamson announced his retirement and promptly kept on writing. This post-retirement piece, from 2010, is typical of his oeuvre, with caricatures lacking in any real depth whose primary function is to put forward his political point of view. Toby is clearly autobiographical, still hanging on to the summer of love and hating the John Howard era of government. Williamson has never let go of the Whitlam years. We have heard it all before and, no doubt, we will hear it all again.

Lines aside, the production offers some fine performances, the most fluent moments being between Rick and Emma as they cease hostilities and negotiate a truce. Hal Bruce and Charlotte Batty play Rick and Emma, initially suffering the ups and downs of their budding relationship caused by their diametrically opposed lifestyles, then discovering and accepting their true callings. There is some very well-considered interplay between these two actors as they find both the compassion and the comedy in the situation.

Kym Clayton and Deb Walsh play Toby and Ros in performances that establish an easy and loving relationship between the two characters. They are very believable as a couple who have been together for many years and settled into a relationship in which they support each other and are able to ride over any bumpy times, such as those affecting Toby as we meet them.

Andrew Horwood and Anita Canala are Ron and Natasha, he the high flier, and she the trophy wife. They, too, suggest a long established relationship but, in this one, we get more of a feeling that they each know and perform their roles, he as the breadwinner, she as the social secretary. When Natasha insists on buying a property in Sydney to use when she visits Emma and the baby, his concern seems more for the costs than the fact that she will be living there, while he is tied to Queensland by his work. We do not feel the love that is evident between Toby and Ros.

All four actors set up and maintain characters as three dimensional as Williamson's script will allow, and they bring out all of the comedy that the disparate ideologies and predispositions generate. As they change positions due to the catalyst of the new baby, none more dramatically than Rick and Emma who effectively swap lifestyles as he becomes a corporate entrepreneur and she opts to be a stay at home mother, the laugh come thick and fast.

All six performers are equally matched and give an evenly high level of performance, keeping the audience entertained and laughing consistently at both the quirks of the characters and the many one-liners in the script. Adding to the evening is the fact that Galleon presents their productions in a cabaret setting, so pack a supper and head to the Domain Theatre.

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