Wish I’d Said That

I had to send Stephen Moore to see Henri Szeps in Wish I’d Said That because Szeps played the role of the doctor in the film of David Williamson’s Travelling North and Stephen’s currently playing the role of the doctor in Noosa Arts Theatre’s production of Travelling North! David and Kristen will attend the Gala Opening Night, which is already SOLD OUT! Such is the reputation of Noosa Arts Theatre and the love on the Sunshine Coast for David’s work.

Wish I’d Said That

Playwright and director:  HENRI SZEPS


Technical Stage Manager:  RUSSELL JONES


Lighting Designer:  SCOTT ALLAN

Music accompaniment:  MICHAEL BARTOLOMEI

QUT Gardens Theatre on March 3 (1 hour 40 minutes, no interval).

The world according to Henri. Acting 101a by Henri.

These two worlds collided in Henri Szeps’ latest one man show (his third self-penned following I’m Not a Dentist and Why Kids?).  Best known as the dentist brother in Mother and Son, or perhaps as the doctor in Travelling North, Henri has a long career on stage and in film which has won him a Helpmann Award and a Penguin Award.  As Henri says in the program notes: “I’m a character actor.  That’s what I do best.  I wanted something to show off in, do my best party pieces in, tell my best showbiz gags in.  But I also wanted to touch on the triumps and failures we all endure, and share the perspectives we gain through simply surviving on this wonderful planet for a long time.”

The premise is that an old actor has ended up in a retirement village and, as his contribution to the cultural life of the residents, he would do a ‘show’ for them as part of the regular entertainment.  In Henri’s opinion, speaking as himself is very limiting and that he is much more honest if he is playing someone else – and so Joe Bleakley is born.  The show sees this character reheasing in his unit and we learn all about his life and almost-career.

So there are some of the great speeches and characters from life, stage and literature, the roles that the failed actor, Joe, would have loved to play, but due to a lack of tact and political savvy, was never afforded the opportunity.  There are also some wonderful stories and cracking one-liners and even a smattering of songs; but it’s not all ‘beer and skittles’ as Joe reveals some regrets about his personal life.

And that’s where we get into philosphical deliberations – the world according to Henri.

Another point made in the program notes is “write what you know”, and so we get a couple of tips on acting; which Henri also did in Why Kid’s.

For me, it became a bit aimless and rambling, or maybe that was what Henri was trying to say – as you get older your thoughts become scattered.  My problem with that is that the evening progressed with very little rising action and not much of a climax, it didn’t build to anything as it chopped and changed from scene to anecdote to confession of past sins and failings.  Certainly there were moments of wonderful theatrics or emotion, beautiful pieces beautifully presented, but they didn’t knit together into a whole.

One of the acting points he makes is that audiences want to see a fully fleshed character, not a well rehearsed actor, but I’m afraid all I saw was a well rehearsed actor plying his trade and producing all the effects he can.

His ability to hold an audience, his timing are not in question in this production – as witnessed by the rousing ovation by the large number of people at this performance.  Henri gets to show off and do his party pieces, and it is entertaining.  The material chosen was first rate and wide ranging.  The set and props, simple and effective, and particularly well complemented by the lighting design.  But, it wasn’t satisfying.

The issue of honesty in performance, or the lack thereof, was highlighted by the repeated ‘attempts’ to sing The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha before Henri breaks down in tears, until the finale, when the it was sung through with a less than stirring voice.

All the ingredients, but not the recipe.


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