|Photo by Katy Green Loughrey|
Sydney Independent Theatre Company (SITCO) present a World Premiere of FRIDAY by Daniele Giorgi at the Old Fitzroy Theatre, Woolloomooloo.
Last Thursday, the 8th August was the World Premiere of "a sizzling new Australian Political Satire FRIDAY by Daniela Giorgi. Sex, secrets and scandals - a tale of democracy in the land of the long weekend" at the Old Fitzroy Theatre, Woolloomooloo.
A new Australian play about Democracy set in a seat of government! Ms Giorgi suggests, coyly, in her notes, about the play, in the program, that "FRIDAY does not replay real events, actual people or current political parties. It's setting could be any democracy." But, certainly some of the base venality of our present political arenas and their denizens seem to be a source of inspiration. That Ms Giorgi has the chutzpah to tackle, unabashedly, the Australian democratic scene, and the characters within it, and produce a play with 13 main characters and ensemble roles, deserves encouragement.
FRIDAY ... is a satirical journey through a modern democracy. Minister for Transport, Bill Twomey (Peter Hayes), a notoriously loose canon, announces his new policy without cabinet approval. But he has enemies, like Carol Steele (Justine Kacir), lobbyist for Strong Industries, and ambitious, young MP, Andrew Armstrong (James Collette). Bill's chief of staff, Angela Kazantis (Sarah Robinson), warns that his rash tactics will cost the government the next election. And so when the campaign against him inevitably heats up, secrets are revealed and scandal ensues. But in this fictitious parliament there are also ordinary folk: journalists interested only in a good story, public servants just trying to make a living, and the average punter, curious about the strange goings on in the House.This play by Ms Giorgi is wildly ambitious and really, it is, in the attempt to convey the epic omnibus of all the worlds of the parliament, with nods to the metaphysical and universal forces that 'may' shape the minutiae of it all, as well, from the main stagers to the chorus of the press and the roving visitors, that FRIDAY staggers and never really lifts off. It feels like a 'pitch' for a mini- series, and such is the scale of the ambition that nothing really works. Satire that is often too vulgar, drama that ends up being to portentous and pretentious, sentimental romances of personal lives lashed with TV melodrama, all demand attention and none of them get enough of the author's honing of skill for us to be really satisfied with any of it.
The direction by Julie Baz, considering the demand of the many, many scenes and characters and shifts in style is fairly coherent - there is a dab hand for organising the stage pictures, especially with so many people on that tiny stage. The set design and lighting by David Jeffrey, in the re-configured stage space of the theatre, is glamorous and versatile - pleasing to the eye, while the many costume solutions and design by Rachel Scane are impressive, as well. Sarah De Jong has written a backing composition and binds the production together with a sense of shape and direction, without too much intrusion.
What Ms Baz can not do, as was the case of Luke Rogers, in the recent production of FIREFACE, was guide the actors to individual performances of skilled judgement or find a consistent style to match all the events that were taking place. Mr Hayes, as the principal target of satire, Twomey, was ominously bombast and writ too large with a heavy sense of self-conscious caricature, perhaps a little off kilter with insecurities - the voice lacks technical gradings, it has no music. Fatal, I should think to audience sympathy. There was in fact quite a deal of insecurity that did not always serve the comedy - it is, someone once said, all in the timing! Other actors were happy to create what was on the page speak, but without much flesh-and-blood backstory. Pencil thin, with no colour of a life being lived. To care for their characters became a matter of personal charm on the part of the audience endowment and sense of attraction to the individual artist.
Sarah Robinson was outstanding; Tim Cole (Peter Brown) pleasant and reliable, a sense of a history going on behind the text. Others did the best they could in a very busy show.
FRIDAY, then, a very ambitious piece of writing and production. That the work amused some on the night I saw it has to be recorded, but, for me, the very ambition "o'er leaps itself and falls ..." However, when a work is conceived and created from such a shining passionate place as the drive of the artistic directors of SITCO, then SITCO should remember the words of the great George Devine, the revolutionary leader of the Royal Court: "Failure you have to have. ... You have the right to fail." Just, hope, that the company absorb the lessons learnt.