Friday, May 11, 2012

When Dad Married Fury by David Williamson

When Dad Married Fury by David Williamson.  Directed by Sandra Bates.  Designer: Marissa Dale-Johnson; Lighting Designer: Peter Neufeld.  Ensemble Theatre, Sydney, May 9-June 16, 2012

Cheree Cassidy as Fury


Nick Tate as Alan (Dad)

Photos: Steve Lunam

Warren Jones, Lenore Smith, Jamie Oxenbould, Di Adams
Reviewed by Frank McKone
May 10

The key to Williamson’s latest play, from which both the comedy and the philosophy grow, is about the irrational way we human animals are each capable of maintaining quite diverse and even opposite beliefs all at once. 

One would think from the simple rostra-block set, stage floor and backdrop completely covered in colourful banknotes, with a back projection in dangerous-looking red of a tumbling graph, that we would see another Williamson comedy, this time of money matters and manners.  And so we do, but, I think, with a new empathetic understanding.  I have often felt previously, except perhaps in Heretic and the trio of ‘Conferencing’ plays, that Williamson has stood strictly apart from his characters.  This is good for neat well-made plays which satirise social foibles, the success of which is obvious from Williamson’s long career.

When 'Dad' married 'Fury', however, his children’s monetary shock is to be expected, but the disjunctions of personal and political assumptions turn this into less satire and more substantial comedy.  It certainly makes a great evening out, and with a lasting effect.

The character, and the actor, who epitomises lasting effect is Cheree Cassidy playing Fury.  I won’t say too much about the plot, considering this is early in the first run of a new play, and surprise is an important element of its success on stage, but it’s hard to go past an anti-government American Tea Party profitable business woman who takes her religion seriously.  Her  belief in the ethics of Jesus brings what otherwise is no more than a cynical absurdist chaos to a satisfactory conclusion.

As a callow youth I wondered how Bernard Shaw could have written the characters of Major Barbara and Saint Joan with such sympathetic understanding when he was an avowed atheist, and now I see David Williamson, in his Fury, showing the same appreciation of his character’s sincerity.  As the play shows, and as Cheree Cassidy’s acting quality demonstrates, sincerity is nothing to do with simple determination.  It is about following through ethically, however surprising that may turn out to be even to yourself.

Sandra Bates’ directing of the play made for a too-slow beginning, in my view, although in an odd way the result of this was that the sudden surprise just before interval had maybe even more shock value than it might have had with a smoother start. 

The characters of Dad’s two sons were not immediately well established by Warren Jones (Ian) and Jamie Oxenbould (Ben) and so their wives, Sue – Lenore Smith – and Laura – Di Adams – seemed for too long to be cardboard cutouts of a financial lawyer and a social activist.  This was particularly unfortunate when Laura’s Mum, played by Lorraine Bayly, was left out, literally up against the wall, as Laura tried to help her mother through her father’s suicide.  We needed this scene to be played close up in the intimate almost in-the-round Ensemble Theatre to give Bayly the position of strength as a character which matches her role at the end.

When Dad  (Alan) appeared,  it took Nick Tate a little while to generate the required spark, but we had no doubt, theatrically at least, that we were in for an exciting ride from then on, even if we didn’t know where we were going.  Cheree Cassidy’s entrance jumped us up several staircases, laughing all the way while wondering if we might not fall off.  The quietness of the last scene then became not just a neat ending, but the right mood to give depth to the feeling that these characters, and maybe even ourselves, can be better people if we work to put ourselves together properly.

Conclusion?  David Williamson is still a force to be reckoned with and When Dad Married Fury is well worth seeing.  And it should be interesting to see what ‘lasting effect’ it might have if it plays in New York.

Di Adams and Lorraine Bayly