Review: THIS MUCH IS TRUE Shines A Spotlight On The Fabulous Misfits Of One Of Sydney's Last Truly Local Pubs

By: Jul. 16, 2017
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Friday 14th July 2017, 8:15pm, Old Fitz Theatre Woolloomooloo

The latest in Red Line Production's "Unspoken" season of stories most people dare not talk about shares the amazing stories of the misfits of Woolloomooloo in the world premiere of Louis Nowra's THIS MUCH IS TRUE. The final instalment in Nowra's semi-autobiographical "Lewis" stories is a perfect fit for Old Fitz Theatre given its subject matter, albeit adjusted for dramatic effect, is centred around the people Nowra met at his local pub, The Old Fitzroy Hotel which every audience member must go through to get to the theatre.

Septimus Caton as Lewis (Photo: John Marmaras)

Whilst Nowra's earlier "Lewis" stories centred on a childhood in Melbourne's housing commission suburbs (SUMMER OF ALIENS) and his 20's working with mental patients (COSI), THIS MUCH IS TRUE follows Lewis into his 40's as he moves, initially temporarily, into Sydney's Woolloomooloo area. Writer Lewis (Septimus Caton) is now 'between marriages' and in moving into the predominantly housing commission suburb of Woolloomooloo, finds himself frequenting the fictional historic pub The Rising Sun where he can't help but get to know the locals. Lewis narrates his memories of the people that make up the forgotten little 'island' of unemployed, mentally ill, criminal and crafty people that the inhabitants of the neighbouring gentrified streets that border the government housing area would rather ignore.

Septimus Caton as Lewis and Justin Stewart Cotta as Venus (Photo: John Marmaras)

Toby Schmitz, who also has a long connection with the Old Fitz, directs the work with a care and understanding, capturing the stories with a simplicity to allow the fantastic cast and Nowra's wonderful text to be the focus. Anna Gardiner's set draws on the Old Fitz' habit of adding theatre playbill on top of playbill to create a layered wallpaper. A combination of papered panels, frosted windows and a multitude of doors allows the full space of the intimate stage to be utilised as Matt Cox's lighting combines with the movement of a simple bar top and chairs to signify the passage of time. Martelle Hunt's costume design helps define the characters. She captures the slow demise of the paranoid former family man and corporate high flyer Wesley (Ashley Lyons) and the carefree nature of entrepreneur and 'fixer' Cass (Danny Adcock) whilst ensuring that the statuesque female impersonator Venus (Justin Stewart Cotta) is consistently glamourous and barmaid and uni student Gretel (Joanna Downing) is contrastingly casual in a contemporary bohemian style.

Photo: John Marmaras

As Lewis, Caton is likable and engaging as he draws the audience into the world of The Rising Sun with a series of memories of his first year in the neighbourhood. Adcock expresses Cass' wonderful optimism with a joy in recounting the multitude of seemingly far fetched stories that make up the mysterious man's colourful life. Stewart Cotta is delicious as the diva Venus, having the gravitas of a drag queen who once commanded a stage whilst slinging snide remarks with casual ease. Downing provides a gentle side to the community as Gretel, capturing the young woman's warmth and compassion whilst sorting out her own life. This sweet innocence is contrasted by the darker characters like Alan Dukes' no longer efficient debt collector Malcolm and Lyons' manic depressive and progressively more paranoid Wesley. Martin Jacobs gives makes meth producing chemist Clarrie an endearing quality that allows the audience to see his quest for perfection as amusing, ignoring the what he is actually creating. Robin Goldsworthy portrays the other newcomer to the neighbourhood Rhys with a layering that ensures that whilst he seems nice at face value, it is clear that the pieces don't add up and he is hiding a darker secret from his 'friends'.

Septimus Caton as Lewis and Ashley Lyons as Wesley (Photo: John Marmaras)

Encouraging the audience to look beyond their first impressions and prejudices they may have for main stream society's undesirable people, Nowra tells the stories with honesty, care and lack of judgement. This openness which extends to the fourth wall being continuously broken allows the audience to see the humour and emotion as well as the tragedy in the stories as the traditional judgement of some of the more 'undesirable' and illegal behaviour is removed. Whilst the work straddles truth and fiction, for those that have had a drink at the front bar of the Old Fitz, they are all highly plausible. Whether you've ever had a drink at the Old Fitz, or any traditional Australian pub, or are simply intrigued by the stories of people whose voices are rarely heard without derision, THIS MUCH IS TRUE will definitely entertain and amuse. Do not miss this fabulous production and its stellar cast in the location that inspired it.


12 July - 12 August 2017

Photo: John Marmaras


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