Thursday, January 8, 2015

Daylight Saving

Photo by Helen White

Darlinghurst Theatre Co, Proudly Supported by The Enright Family, present DAYLIGHT SAVING, by Nick Enright, at the Eternity Playhouse. 31 Oct - 30 Nov.

DAYLIGHT SAVING, is an Australian play, by Nick Enright, written in 1989, that had its first performance at the Ensemble Theatre.

What one can best admire about this play, today, is the mastery which Enright demonstrates in assembling his structure for a form of theatre writing that is notoriously difficult: the comic farce. For, the situation chosen and the text are, today, more than faintly, a little hoary, to really work in November, 2014. At best one can be gently, nostalgically, amused - "remember then, when?" "Oh, yes. Yes, yes." Certainly, the mostly, almost entirely, white middle-class and mature audience - a majority, ladies - thought so, on the afternoon that I attended.

Adam Cook, the Director, in his program notes, begins by telling us:
I'm not going to say much about this play. It can easily speak for itself. It's a romantic comedy, but by no means slight. Although it has many great one-liners and some good sight gags, Nick wouldn't have been interested in writing anything entirely frivolous and so you will find some rich and resonant ideas expressed here, about loneliness and marriage, about loneliness in marriage, and about living in the present but longing for the past.
That "loneliness and marriage", and "loneliness in marriage" is still a necessary, reflective preoccupation for some, is undoubted, for it fuels many a successful television comic series, aka: THE MODERN FAMILY, (and many a drama, too, evidently). The concerns (and jokes) used in THE MODERN FAMILY, the contemporary, high-rating award-winning television program are so 'modern' that they would have hardly been considered 'proper' in 1989. What makes us laugh now, is not what made us laugh then.

This production of DAYLIGHT SAVING, for the Darlinghurst Theatre Company, at the Eternity Playhouse has been "... made possible through the generous support of the Enright Family." The choice of play, then, is a philanthropic gesture to remind us of the talents of Nick Enright. It is unfortunate that this, essentially, boulevard-romantic-farce is so dated contextually, that it is not, necessarily, the best example to show to sustain an indispensable regard for Enright's gifts. This play, at least, in this production, appears, in 2014, despite what Mr Cook tell us, "entirely frivolous" and is an example of not living in the present but in the past, and because so much as happened sociologically since 1989, the play cannot, does not "express" ideas that are,"rich and resonant" for us, any longer. Watching DAYLIGHT SAVING in the Eternity Playhouse today, is as risible as watching  FATHER KNOWS BEST (1954-1960), MY THREE SONS. (1960 - 1972), or THE COSBY SHOW (1984-1992), for ideas that are "rich and resonant".

The best performances in this production, in a form of comedy that requires exacting precision and impeccable techniques of diction and physical disciplines, and an essential optimistic view of life, no matter the circumstances of the unfolding plot, came from Helen Dallimore (Stephanie) and Belinda Giblin (Bunty) - both, with the saving grace of abundant comic gifts, and, so, hilarious. Rachel Gordon playing the pivotal role of Felicity (Flick), unfortunately, revealed a lack of a true comic technique in all the necessary skills for the genre of the writing - she genuinely struggled with the style. Her partners, Ian Stenlake (Joshua Makepeace), and Christopher Stollery (Tom Finn) seemed to be mostly employing a generalised naturalism to get through the performance, on my afternoon, whilst Jacob Warner (Jason Strutt) had no idea how to 'strut' his genre task. The wheels of this farce were not always assisted. One longed for the likes of Peter Rowley, Jennifer Hagan, Charlie Little, Peter Whitford, Jackie Weaver, farceurs par excellence, in that glorious era of the Marian Street Theatre, Killara, under the auspices of Peter Collingwood and, later, John Krummel. We do have young, contemporary actors who understand this genre and have the skills to reproduce them, witness this year's NOISES OFF at the Sydney Theatre Company (STC), so one needn't concern oneself, too much, that the art of farce has been lost for the Australian audience.

The Set and Costume Design was very reminiscent of small budget amateur productions in all areas (Hugh O'Connor), except the Lighting (Gavin Swift).

The Darlinghurst Theatre Company with the gift from the Enright Family, have scheduled for the 2015 Season at the Eternity Playhouse, GOOD WORKS, and another, as yet unannounced, Nick Enright play, for 2016. Let us hope that those plays are the Best of Enright's work, for, like the recent EMERALD CITY, by David Williamson, for the Griffin Theatre Company, the showing of this play in this production reveals, the time is not (yet) ripe for reviving.

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