This well-regarded classic Australian play, written in 1957 by Richard Beynon and set against a backdrop of post war hardship in Collingwood, Melbourne would only need some costume and reference updates to align with present day social politics. The story revolves around the Bianchi family: Poppa (Tony Poli), Momma (Dina Panozzo), 21 year old son Gino (David Soncin), and older daughter Maria (Ariadne Sgouros) who is married to Australian, Clarry Fowler (Lucas Linehan) and is almost full-term pregnant.
The single set is the back of their dilapidated house, with a broken side fence providing a walk-through for affable, red-haired neighbour, Leila Pratt (Di Smith) and her hapless, alcoholic husband Donny (Laurence Coy playing a dual role as Detective Sergeant Lukie).
The family dynamic is fraught by external racism and the internal tensions it causes.
With only a few lighter comic moments, the play can be heavy-going, with a lot of vocal and sometimes physical violence and one particularly disturbing incident. The audience discomfort is not helped by the company’s decision not to have an interval. At two hours, the action feels relentless.
That said, the performances are powerful and convincing and the story is absorbing.
The set design with its rustic simplicity, yet attention to detail and the intimacy of the Reginald Theatre, allow the audience to be immersed in the time and space of 1950s lower class suburbia. The lighting too, is used very effectively, not only to literally indicate changing time of day, but also to reflect the oscillating mood.
It’s a moving and sadly still relevant story, but also a timeless piece of Australian literature.
Until Mar 24, $25 – $45 + BF; Seymour Centre, Cnr Cleveland and City Roads, Chippendale. $25-$45+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.seymourcentre.com
By Rita Bratovich