Up For Grabs by David Williamson. Sydney Theatre Company directed by Gale Edwards at The PlayhouseMay 30 - June 2, June 4-9, 2001.
Casting Garry McDonald as the ruthless Manny, fifth richest man in Australia with an interesting sexual identity problem, has to mean a thoroughly entertaining night. His comic timing is superb; his transition from veniality to vunerability is wonderful to watch.
McDonald was offered the part by Gale Edwards because she knew his integrity as an actor would do the trick (watch out for the end of Act 1), and the whole ensemble - Helen Dallimore, Tina Bursill, Angela Punch McGregor, Simon Burke, Kirstie Hutton and Felix Williamson - came up to scratch, sometimes literally (though on opening night Punch McGregor did get stuck on a high pitch and volume for a while, losing comic effect and audience sympathy, before regaining strength in her final revelation speech).
David Williamson, whom I have criticised before for not having full control of dramatic form (seeking to be naturalistic when one-liners and neat finishes are at odds with this quest), has found in Edwards a director who sees the style his work needs - while Williamson has also at last clarified his understanding of form by allowing characters to speak direct to the audience in soliloquies which reveal themselves to us and draw us along with them into the action.
As a result, Dallimore's art dealer, Simone, doing everything (the details of which I won't reveal) to make her 2 million dollar sale remains a character we can feel sympathy for. It's interesting, perhaps ironic, that through non-naturalistic devices the characters seem more real. And Williamson's writing seems much freer and more daring than in many earlier plays. His younger damagecontrol.com instant new wealth couple, Mindy (Hutton) and Kel (Williamson) display a wildness that I think is new and exciting.
Everyone I spoke to on opening night emphasised how entertaining the performance was, and especially how exquisite the stage and lighting designs are, so no-one will be disappointed in this night out at the theatre. Yet for me, this play is less layered with meaning than, say, Face to Face, though it is better than his other financial competition play, Emerald City. I guess I'm looking for a harder satirical edge which could make this play greater than just a great night out.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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