Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Tuesday, 9 May 2017
Away, May 4, 2017 ***
Written by Michael Gow, by Malthouse Theatre At Merlyn
Theatre, Malthouse, until May 28, 2017 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: *** Review also published at Herald Sun Arts online on Fri May 5, 2017 and later in print. K
Julia Davis, Marco Chiappi, Natasha Herbert, Heather Mitchell, Glenn Hazeldine - photo Pia Johnson
Imagine Christmas holidays with stinking hot, summer days spent in a tent
or caravan then add a cyclonic storm and fraught family relationships, and you
have Michael Gow’s 1986
Set in the summer of 1967, when the previous, older generations collided
with the modern, youthful 60s and Australian boys were dying in Vietnam, Away
follows three families on their various summer holidays where they confront
their grief and the fragility and changing nature of their lives.
of its abstract style and its focus on issues including family, grief and
redemption, Away is popular with schools and often studied in VCE.
Davis and Wadih Dona are warm and engaging as English immigrants, Vic and Harry,
who maintain a relentlessly cheerful demeanour to avoid facing their son Tom’s
(Liam Nunan) ill health.
Hazeldine balances playfulness with sadness as school principal, Roy, while Natasha
Herbert portrays his grieving wife, Coral, with an eerie, disassociated
distance that embodies Coral’s depression.
the most fractious relationship, Marco Chiappi’s Jim is gentle and tolerant with
his peevish and maddening wife, Gwen, played by Heather Mitchell with barely
masked, seething rage that Gwen directs at everyone and everything, including
her daughter, Meg (Naomi Rukavina).
Lutton’s stylish production is most successful in the early scenes before the holidays
begin, when the entire cast performs a hilariously shambolic high school, end-of-year
version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and we witness the families
preparing for their trips.
atmosphere in each household suggests hidden issues and hints at the impending,
grim and explosive problems confronting these temperamental families.
lighting (Paul Jackson) and stark stage design (Dale Ferguson) elevate the
almost supernatural quality of the production, accentuating the sense of
dislocation and confusion of the characters.
stylisation of Lutton’s direction is often visually interesting, but ultimately
and perhaps frustratingly, it is unclear
what Gow’s play is really trying
to say, it is also unclear whose story it is, and the threads to Shakespeare’s
plays, The Tempest, King Lear and The Dream, are tenuous at best.
problems occur towards the end of the play: both Gwen and Coral recover and
learn to commune with the rest of the world rather too quickly and
effortlessly, and the final scene is almost absurdly melodramatic when Tom
‘walks into the light’.
its flaws, Gow’s popular play has become part of the Australian theatre lexicon
and this production succeeds to a great degree because of its capable cast.
Marco Chiappi, Heather Mitchell, Natasha Herbert, Wadhi Dona, Julia Davis & Liam Nunan_photo Pia Johnson