|Pauline Mullen (Irene) and Martin Sanders (Alf) in "THE WALTZ".|
Directed by Jock McLean – Original Direction by Dave Letch
Lighting by Blake Selmes – Sound by David Cole
The Q, Queanbeyan – 9th & 10th June 2023
Performance on 9th June reviewed by BILL STEPHENS
Irene, played by Pauline Mullen, is an elderly widow, a former member of Sydney’s infamous The Push, a 1960’s group of radicals who reputedly lived in a state of “permanent protest” about everything. Irene is proud of her former hedonistic lifestyle.
Alf, played by Martin Sanders, also elderly, is much more reserved, speaks with a slight impediment as the result of a stroke, which has also left him with some memory loss.
Alf is given to breaking into song, because he finds that his impediment disappears when he sings. He also enjoys sketching portraits.
Irene and Alf first meet on a park bench, where they strike up a conversation which is interrupted by frequent phone calls from Irene’s concerned daughter checking on her mother’s movements.
When Irene asks to look through Alf’s sketchbook she recognises one of the subjects as also being a member of The Push. Alf reveals that he had also moved on the periphery of The Push and had sketched some of its members. They reminisce, recalling the famous Bogle/Chandler case.
Alf mentions that he surreptitiously sketched some of The Push members and invites Irene to his apartment in the hope that she can identify the members in his portraits. Irene accepts and while looking through the portraits discovers a portrait of her.
They realise that she and Alf had once been lovers, and joyously decide to resume their affair.
Things go well until Irene reveals that she has been diagnosed with a terminal condition and has only a year to live. From there the play takes a deep dive into much darker territory.
Alf reveals that in the ensuing years he had been an inmate in Kenmore in Goulburn and Callan Park, a revelation which prompts Irene to reveal that her daughter is really Alf’s child from their previous liaison. Alf asks to meet his daughter but Irene refuses, proposing instead that they enter into a suicide pact.
Alf agrees, revealing that he already has the wherewithal to achieve this, but they both die together of sudden heart-attacks before they can go through with their pact.
David Cole’s play suffers from split personality. It begins promisingly with the suggestion that it will develop into an expose of The Push, a subject ripe for exploration. However as the play progresses it loses sight of its original premise and evolves into a melodrama involving elderly characters bemoaning lost opportunities and desperately attempting to recapture their youth.
Pauline Mullen and Martin Sanders, both obviously experienced veteran actors, wrestled to create believable characters, but were ultimately defeated by the material, and direction which seemed to believe that there was something interesting in watching spot lit actors change costume between scenes; as well the sparse setting of a park bench which resolutely refused to suggest anything other than a park bench, despite the addition of pretty cushions.
Presented as part of the Q The Locals initiative, this production of “The Waltz” nevertheless provided a welcome opportunity to experience the work of creatives from around the region with this production which premiered at the Goulburn Club in 2022 and has since been seen in Crookwell, Braidwood and Bowral.
Image by Geoff Mosely.