Monday, February 20, 2017

The Trouble With Harry

Photo by Clare Hawley

Siren Theatre Company and the Seymour Centre present, THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, by Lachlan Philpott, in the Reginald Theatre, at the Seymour Centre, Chippendale, 16 February - 3 March.

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, is a new play from Lachlan Philpott. It had its premiere season in Belfast in 2013 and played last year in Melbourne. Written in a kind of open verse style with a duo of actors narrating as a Greek Chorus (Thomas Campbell, Niki Owen) and interacting as minor characters, four other actors embody the major characters to tell the story of Harry Crawford in the working class suburbs of Sydney in the early years of the last century.

In virtual poverty, Annie Birkett (Jane Phegan) cares for a house for her son, Harry (Jonas Thomson), and her partner, Harry Crawford (Jodie Le Vesconte), he, with a job at a pub as a 'bar useful'. The neighbourhood is curious and 'gossipy' and suspect that there is something different about this family and its noisy rooster. All seems normal if not tense and when Josephine Falleni (Bobbie-Jean Henning) turns up looking for shelter – a seismic shake disturbs the household.

Mr Philpott is back in form (LAKE DISAPPOINTMENT) and in his beautiful and carefully written words tells a story without too much why and wherefore as to the background of the events and characters of the play, simply recounting a story, sufficiently, of a time when fear of the different caused behaviours that were necessarily secret, that spun into 'terrible' consequences. It seems that times have changed for some of us, but have they really for the greater part of our democratic brothers and sisters? Who still believes that our sexual inheritance and behaviour is a choice? Most of the world, I think. The moment that the possibility of 'choice' is aired in THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY is one of cauterising and dynamic impact. This is a gentle reminder of the fragility of existence for the different and the virtue of tolerance. Tolerance and understanding. Mr Philpott is to be admired for his contemporary political subtlety.

Director, Kate Gaul has built with her Designers, Alice Morgan (Set and Costume), Matt Cox (Lighting) and Nate Edmondson (Sound and Composition) a seductive environment to create a means of attention focusing for the telling of the story. The Set, a rough wooden raised platform centred on the stage with two rails of moveable 'gauzy' cloth curtains is lit with extraordinary care and beauty by Mr Cox. The stage pictures are sometimes exquisite, painterly, in their organising by Ms Gaul. Mr Edmondson's Sound Composition is particularly beautiful and is sparing in its use, supporting almost unconsciously, in the background, the emotions of the play, without spectacle.

The cast is uneven in its affect and the tempo of the music of the drama sometimes lacks forward energy and gathering tension, though not enough to derail the experience. Tom Campbell is at his usual vivid best, while Ms Le Vesconte creates an enigmatic presence and is supported with the mysterious and 'haunted' Annie of Ms Phegan. Mr Thompson and Ms Henning do well with the text but are not always physically clear about their choices.

This is the fourth production that is part of this year's Mardi Gras Festival: THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED, THE MYSTERY OF LOVE AND SEX and THE JUDAS KISS, and I can recommend all four as stimulating and good theatre.

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, the Australian entry, is well worth your time.

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