BWW REVIEW: The Darker Side Of The Entertainment Industry Is Exposed And Friendships Fall By The Wayside When Opportunity Knocks In THE BIG TIME.
Wednesday 30th January 2019, 7:30pm, Ensemble Theatre
In a World Premiere at Ensemble Theatre, David Williamson's latest play THE BIG TIME lifts the lid on the performing arts world whilst also considering human behavior. Directed by Mark Kilmurry, this satirical work exposes contemporary values, competitive natures and the limits, or lack thereof, of greed in an industry that many only ever see the final product of.
The Australian playwright, famous for creating plays that examine human behavior through realistic Australian characters, draws on his knowledge of the lives of actors, agents, and playwrights in the performing arts industry, a world he and his family are intimately connected to. For THE BIG TIME, Williamson presents two very different young women and considers their career trajectories since graduation from drama school, the prestigious NIDA. Celia Constanti (Aileen Huynh) received a stack of offers from agents on graduation and landed a profitable position in a soap opera, or "continuing drama series" as she prefers to call it, playing what seems to be a fairly bland but popular character that places few demands on her acting ability. Her best friend Vicki Fielding (Claudia Barrie) was not so sought after following their final college production but has tackled more stretching and complex roles in independent theatre, which, while they don't always pay the bills, leaves her with a satisfaction of actually using her talent and stretching her skills in critically acclaimed roles that she feels are more legitimate acting. A comment from Vicki sets Celia into questioning her priorities, whether money and fame should trump artistic integrity, and her world changes. Added to the mix is Celia's older boyfriend, struggling playwright and commitment phobic Rohan Black (Jeremy Waters) who hasn't had a hit in 15 years and is desperately hungry for success but also bitter at being overlooked for younger entrants by producers like king pin Nate Macklin (Matt Minto), and the her agent Nelli Browne (Zoe Carides) who has also signed Vicki with the hope that one day she will finally make her money.
With the work set as a contemporary piece that focuses on Celia and Rohan's harbor view apartment, the coffee shop where Nelli holds her meetings, Nate's production offices and studio and a bar where Rohan meets his hapless school friend Rolly Pierce (Ben Wood), set and costume designer Melanie Liertz keeps the aesthetic simple. The small thrust stage is divided by tiered platforms to add vertical variety and delineate spaces. A café table and chairs brings scenes close to the audience whilst a timber bar at the rear of the stage serves as both the domestic setting and the pub. A leather chair serves as a representation of Nate's corporate office and the modern décor of the expensive apartment. Costuming is kept simple with most characters remaining in the same attire for multiple scenes with small changes for character evolutions.
Finding humor in truth, there is a realism in the characters and the assessment of the industry, from the competitive nature of the young actresses trying to make it in a field where success isn't always linked to ability, image and congeniality matter, to the fact that if you don't have an established profile, you often don't get a look in, or an 'I'll make an exception for you" meeting in the conference room as Nate taunts Rohan with. For a work that would be recognizable to the performers, at least to a degree, the performances are a little stilted though with the focus on the text rather than ensuring an overall naturalness to the cadence and comportment. The most realistic, and therefore likable character actually comes from Wood's expression of the only person not tightly bound to the industry, former credit union employee and current uber driver, the perpetually unlucky Rolly.
With moments that elicit audible reactions of laughter, shock and dismay from the audience, THE BIG TIME not only exposes the perils and pitfalls of the industry but also the relatability of the failures of modern society where success and winning at all costs takes precedence over friendships and human connections. In a world obsessed with image each character has their own view of what success looks like and tries to manipulate their way into achieving it, something common to general society's obsession with social media, believing that connection and perceived is better than live human interaction and honest unvarnished expression.
Regardless of your connection to the arts industry, THE BIG TIME holds a message for everyone to be kinder to each other, celebrate each other's successes and generally be decent human beings as karma can bite.
THE BIG TIME