Review: COMPETITIVE TENDERNESS at The Arts Centre, Port Noarlunga

A corporate comedy.

By: Apr. 29, 2023
Review: COMPETITIVE TENDERNESS at The Arts Centre, Port Noarlunga

Reviewed by Ewart Shaw, Friday 28th April 2023.

The Noarlunga Theatre Company is currently presenting Hannie Rayson's comedy, Competitive Tenderness, directed by Harry Dewar.

The Municipality of Greater Burke needs help. The CEO has died. They are millions in debt. Enter Dawn Snow, entrepreneur, and prison reformer, to save the day. She strides the corridors of power in her blood red 'onesie', blonde curls flaring; Super CEO. She is too good to be truthful. You just know something, somewhere, is amiss and it will all end in tears or, in this case, a very public stoush.

The title suggests a jockeying for affection but it comes from an administrative buzz phrase Compulsory Competitive Tendering. A device used by the newly appointed Dawn Snow to reward her old friend, the smallgoods manufacturer, Dragi Smilevski, with a lucrative contract.

It's an excellent choice for a local theatre company requiring some experienced performers for the main roles and newcomers in support. Director Harry Dewar is remarkably fortunate in his casting.

Damien White is spot on as Brian Guest the Mayor, and as Dawn Snow, a name so evocative of radiance and purity, Dawn Ross has a frantic and hungry energy. Around the council offices, Rebecca Gardner is receptionist Delia Johannsen and Samara Gambling is the feminist secretary Amelia Stitch. Aled Proeve is Trevor Guest, the council dog catcher. His hyperactive and barking turn is worth the long drive from the city. Roy Ferret, Dawn's sacrificial victim, is an impressive creation as the weak-willed, slightly camp administrator, from Cherylene O'Brien. I was so confused trying to identify the actor, I phoned the director for clarification. Will Dunn, in what I hope is a fake beer gut, is Piggy Katsos. Linda Edwards is an experienced performer and her Merle Pickhaver, the hardworking council member, is nicely done indeed.

John Broadly's Smilevski is a well-drawn portrait, and Geoff Hastwell, with a strange moustache, is a forthright traffic inspector who scabs off to the private sector.

State politics is represented by minister Kimberly Farkley, suitably suited by Chris Dewar, backed up by Callum Drage, as Rocco Ricotto.

Bronwyn Calvett and Wendy Williams nip on and off as various customers and complainers, and Noah Tavener debuts in several roles and provides the barking, from off-stage. Yes, there is a dog. It bites people. It belongs to Dawn Snow.

Hannie Rayson knows her likely audience and this tale of sexual and financial corruption in local government has many funny moments. I have to say, however, that the Mayor's perfunctory Indigenous acknowledgement would be a running joke, if it wasn't so lame. Her presentation of the Macedonian community as gun-toting and Greek hating is questionable, though it does lead to the incident at the end of the play when the Macedonian small goods manufacturer attacks the Greek archbishop with a giant salami.

The opening night audience had a great time, with lots of laughs and, once the lighting cues hit the spots and the cast find their feet on the many levels of the set, it should speed up well.

I am frequently moved to remark, when faced with tales of corruption in areas such as local government, that it couldn't happen here in South Australia. It does. While Greater Barking feels so Victorian, or New South Welsh, it could as easily be down your street.

It's running a very short season, Friday and Saturday at 7.30, with matinees Saturday at 1pm, until May 6 in the Arts Centre, Gawler Street, Port Noarlunga, not all that far from town via the freeway.