Posts Tagged ‘farce


Managing Carmen

Managing Carmen

Managing Carmen

Queensland Theatre Company & Black Swan State Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

13th October – 4th November 2012


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


I tell you what. Get your iCal out in front of you, work out when you can go (at least once), get onto the Queensland Theatre Company’s website to book your tickets and then come back to this window to read my review. Otherwise you might miss out on seeing DAVID WILLIAMSON’S BEST PLAY YET.


“David Williamson has the ability to pinpoint a societal issue and expose it through his unique satirical lens.”

Wesley Enoch


Managing Carmen is outstanding. It’s tighter, funnier, slicker and more satirical than anticipated. The text is peppered with gag lines, perfectly timed; only a master craftsman like Williamson can convincingly achieve this sort of perfect comedy. It’s already on its way to becoming a massive box office success and it’s essential viewing for anyone who loves their footy and/or high fashion. Or who wants to be entertained during a night out at the theatre. Not such a rare thing in Brisbane this year. Aren’t we lucky?!


Managing Carmen

David Williamson, in case you’ve been living in a yurt in Turkey since the 70s, is our most prolific playwright, supposedly “retired” in 2005 (Influence would have been his final work!), but in stubborn objection to ill health and with the help of modern medicine, a theme that features prominently in the 2011 work At Any Cost, Williamson has continued to chronicle our country’s social and political history, providing plum roles for Australian actors and consistently offering on a silver platter, script after script to make any director’s mouth water with the rich potential of each dish. Williamson’s list of plays reads like a degustation menu. See below.

With Managing Carmen already under option, I can’t help but wonder who will make the movie that chronicles David Williamson’s extraordinary life and career? But before we get ahead of ourselves let me tell you about the play.


Wait. You have booked your tickets now, haven’t you? Okay. Just checking. You know I don’t want you to miss this one.

Tim Dashwood, sculpted, taut and terrific in the role, is Brent Lyall, the extraordinarily talented two-time Brownlow Medal winning 23-year old AFL star player and…cross-dresser. His addiction is “sufficiently unusual for him and his manager and the rest of the team to be terrified if the word gets out” (David Williamson, interviewed by Frank Hatherley for Stage Whispers). Dashwood proves in this role that he is equally at home in heels or football boots. I hope he feels he can share at some stage his recent training program, diet and supplement intake. Every husband needs to know. Not necessarily the heel practicing (well, they’ve all had a go at that, haven’t they? Well, haven’t they?!), but definitely the hard-core training to get in peak physical condition. Just saying. Dashwood’s super confident, relaxed, sexy and stylish performance as Brent-as-Carmen (that’s Carmen Getme) is a much better pitch for a role in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert than any of those seen on I Will Survive and I won’t be at all surprised if his next offer comes from the producers of a revival (the show closed on Broadway in June). Well, you know Dashwood’s also a singer, right? And he can dance! In heels! On a revolving, glossy, black tiled floor! While it struck me that perhaps his monotone was a bit much at first, I realised almost within the same instant that I HAVE HEARD ELITE SPORTSMAN SPEAK THIS WAY. Also, many, many teenaged boys. We’ll just stop for a moment to acknowledge that this play is for all ages and all sorts. I hope that many, many men and women, of all ages, can bring themselves to turn off the TV, get up off the lounge and get to this show. Williamson writes not just for the “elite” baby-boomer theatregoers but also for everyone now. In fact, I’m in awe of the man’s research skills and application of contemporary Australian language to give us beautifully drawn characters that we feel we already know.

Claire Lovering is Jessica Giordano, the corporate confidence boosting, image-grooming psychologist and eventual love interest (no spoiler there, it’s pretty obvious from the outset and you’re in for a delightful surprise when that deal is sealed with a kiss! A little bit of Luhrmann creeping in there. I almost expected to hear the moon singing! It’s a brave ending and I love it!). Lovering’s finest moment is her penultimate one, but only because we go with her, every step of the way, on her journey to that point.

Anna McGahan Managing Carmen

Anna McGahan, who plays the girlfriend, paid to pose by Lyall’s side for the paps by his ruthless, money-hungry manager, Rohan Swift (John Batchelor), totes pulls off saying “totes” and does so while adopting that odd WAGS cum Orange County Housewife accent that we hear on the red carpet when one of the hotter halves has been asked which designer she is wearing and which often indicates a jet-setting vaporous existence amongst those who have more money than (fashion) sense. Of course I’m over-generalising… Anyway, I love the way McGahan changes sides; the alliance between she and Carmen is completely genuine and their beautifully girly BFF behaviour – most of all their outrageous drunken behaviour – has us in stitches. It’s a very funny play and Wesley Enoch’s deft hand and his fearless, fun approach in directing it is obvious.

John Batchelor is, strangely, halfway to being endearing as Swift; we almost believe that he cares a little bit about his client’s wellbeing…until we see time and time again that he doesn’t! We wonder at first at his groovy moves and frustrated antics and vocals (they come across at first as a little too OTT), but because they’re funny they’re easily forgiven and as the character settles they begin to make sense. I won’t spoil the opening for you. Suffice to say, from the outset, Batchelor is the Basil Fawlty of this farce, skilfully, relentlessly driving the action and flawless Williamson brand of comedy as Enoch sees it.

In fact, it takes a little while to accept that we’re in the middle of a modern-day farce. As Kate Foy observed during interval, instead of doors opening and closing all over the place, we have an eleven metre revolve, which helps keep the action fast and funny, as the actors fall over furniture to get to their next scene. It sounds clumsy but it’s not; it’s beautifully choreographed. While we’re on it, the set almost steals the show; it’s truly gasp-worthy. Designed by Richard Roberts (assisted by Isobel Hutton), the use of this stunning black floored revolve in this space is a coup for Queensland Theatre Company and QPAC’s Playhouse. I love it and I’d love to see more of it. Lit by Black Swan’s Trent Suidgeest, we feel at home in Lyall’s apartment, Swift’s office, a bar, a nightclub and out in the open by the sea, with the help of projected images of clouds and the sounds of a seascape (Sound Designer Tony Brumpton). The only let down on opening night was that the first visual failed to appear on the television screen in Swift’s office, however, that’s an easy fix. Not so easy, now that the season has begun, would be to ask a favour of Eddie McGuire and have The Footy Show excerpts pre-filmed. This extra effort, rather than playing the audio recorded by the actors over random mismatched footage, would make this production faultless. (Audio Visual Designer Declan McMonagle). Also, I appeared to be overdressed in an old LBD and new, flat Siren Bolly shoes, however, that’s just a note to self. I am yet to work out the dress code for Brisbane opening nights. Clearly, so are others. What do you wear to opening nights? Do you dress thematically? I’d like to know. The Brisbane theatre scene is evolving and it feels like it’s time to give the social photographers something special to shoot!

Managing Carmen is stylish, slickly designed and superbly written, directed and performed. It places the spotlight unforgivingly over our obsession with celebrity and the insane pursuit of sponsorship and monetary gain over recognition and reward for true talent in just about every arena. Challenging our levels of tolerance, understanding and acceptance of difference in an entertaining, energetic farce, Wesley Enoch’s production of David Williamson’s Managing Carmen is a true blue theatrical triumph.

Anna McGahan & Tim Dashwood Managing Carmen

David Williamson – list of plays

The Indecent Exposure of Anthony East (1968)

You’ve Got to Get on Jack (1970)

The Coming of Stork (1970)

The Removalists (1971)

Don’s Party (1971)

Jugglers Three (1972)

What If You Died Tomorrow? (1973)

The Department (1975)

A Handful of Friends (1976)

The Club (1977)

Travelling North (1979)

Celluloid Heroes (1980)

The Perfectionist (1982)

Sons of Cain (1985)

Emerald City (1987)

Top Silk (1989)

Siren (1990)

Money and Friends (1991)

Brilliant Lies (1993)

Sanctuary (1994)

Dead White Males (1995)

Heretic (1996)

Third World Blues (1997, An Adaptation Of Jugglers Three)

After The Ball (1997)

Corporate Vibes (1999)

Face to Face (2000)

The Great Man (2000)

Up for Grabs (2001)

A Conversation (2001)

Charitable Intent (2001)

Soulmates (2002)

Flatfoot (2003)

Birthrights (2003)

Amigos (2004)

Operator (2005)

Influence (2005)

Lotte’s Gift (2007) – also known as Strings Under My Fingers

Scarlett O’Hara at the Crimson Parrot (2008)

Let The Sunshine[4] (2009)

Don Parties On (2011)

At Any Cost? (2011)

Nothing Personal (2011)

When Dad Married Fury (2011)

Managing Carmen (2012)

Managing Carmen moves to Black Swan State Theatre Company’s Heath Ledger Theatre 10th November – 2nd December and, with an entirely different cast, directed by Mark Kilmurry, Ensemble Theatre presents their production of Managing Carmen 6th December – January 25th.

A live simulcast of the world premiere co-production from the Black Swan Theatre Company (Perth) with Queensland Theatre Company will be presented on 30th November in the Cummins Theatre, WA.

David Williamson’s MANAGING CARMEN is a “laugh-out-loud comedy for anyone who likes who likes football or designer dresses and a crackling funny dissection of stereotypes in sport. Brent is a country boy turned footy star: captain of his AFL team, king of product-endorsements, with a model girlfriend and ruthless sports manager. But Brent’s hiding one little thing that could ruin his career and end the advertising money: his passion for cross-dressing….”

Cast includes: John Batchelor, Timothy Dashwood, Claire Lovering, Anna McGahan, and Greg McNeil

Directed by Wesley Enoch

***This live simulcast event is FREE***

Friday, 30 November at 730pm
the Cummins Theatre
31 Bates Street
Merredin, Western Australia



That Scottish Play: deliciously wicked!

My husband Sam, who you know is the President of the Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance,
is at Lind Lane Theatre tonight, rehearsing for what I’m predicting will be
Why? Because it’s a parody of all things community theatre…and it’s all true! Well, okay; to be safe, let’s just say it’s “inspired by true events”.
Sam says of the show, “In true Denver style, this is chaos on speed!”
Locals will recognise many familiar faces not only on stage but within the references and in-house jokes, which Simon Denver has ingeniously (or is that just deliciously wickedly?) mashed together in order to present the play we had to have. Or is it a musical? Let’s use Midsummer’s line and call it “a play with songs”.
With Darren Heskes (MD) on board, we can certainly expect to hear some clever little musical references.
If you’ve ever been involved in community theatre anywhere, you will love this show.
(Actually, there’s a slim chance you’ll loathe it but that’s only if you’re unable to have a laugh at yourself!)
By the way, you might have noticed that on certain publicity materials my name appears, however; I was unable to commit to early rehearsals due to my involvement in Travelling North. Wait. Were there early rehearsals?!
I can’t wait to see what this show becomes by Friday night! I’m sure it will be full of surprises!
A deliciously wicked farce parodying community theatre. 
A local group crash tackles Macbeth, sorta by William Shakespeare – but with all the Macbeth bits taken out! 
A co-production presented by Lind Lane Theatre & SRT Productions
written & directed by Simon Denver.
“That Scottish Play” could almost be retitled – “ROAST THE COAST”  
Opening night: Friday April 27th
Season continues: April 28th, May 2nd, 4th & 5th at 8pm
Matinees: April 29 & May 5 at 2pm

Adults $22. Concessions apply
Once word gets out this show will sell out so be quick to book!
The cast of 25 plus, includes members of 12 different theatre groups.  
Or to put it another way, 15 current and past committee members of 
aforementioned groups and 6 past or present presidents!  
Pound for pound this is a very frightening cast!  All from the deeper end of the talent pool.  

The cast includes:
Brett Klease, Joy Marshall,
Sam Coward, Errol Morrison, 
Anna MacMahon, Jane Rivers, Jenni McCaul,
Howard Tampling, Darren Heskes, Angel Goulter
and a host of others.
Bookings: 5441 1814 or online at

flying feathers

Flying Feathers

Coolum Theatre Players

Coolum Civic Centre 

23rd March – 1st April

Richard Kent (Roger Featherstone) surrounded by Mrs Winthrop's girls: Claire Sawyer (Sally), Chris McMahon (Jackie), Jesse Hana Ellison (Polly) and in front, Kathryn Rose (Debbie)


I love going to a Coolum Theatre Players’ show. The Coolum Civic Centre is not the greatest venue (the sound disappears pretty quickly into its cavernous belly) and I often forget to take drinks and tapas (damn!) but we always get a warm welcome and more and more often, we’re getting a great, fun show. Friday night was no exception. President, Julia (lovely is her middle name) Loaney, greeted us and showed us to our seats and we enjoyed a fast-paced British farce, Flying Feathers, featuring a few familiar faces and a couple of new ones.


Jesse Hana Ellison (Polly)



Claire Sawyer (Sally)


Pretty tightly written, by Derek Benfield, with a typical, farcical twist, Flying Feathers is a short, funny show for everyone (well, perhaps not for your youngest, being set in a “house of sin”). Well-respected local Director, Nancy Kinmond, has obviously had fun with this one, which meant that we did too.

The problems associated with solving multiple mistaken identities provide the amusing premise, with plenty of sexy costumes, postures and innuendo thrown in. In typically ridiculously hilarious fashion, somebody, little orphan Annie style, escapes the crazy house in a laundry basket, somebody comes back to life in the laundry basket, and somebody nicks off with a bottle of whiskey to the relative safety of a cupboard instead of into the laundry basket!

Tania Nash (Mrs Winthrop) provides much of the pace behind the action in Act 1 and, with so much to set up; this can only improve during the short run. Improving pace means getting on top of those cues, guys! You know who you are! I know Nancy has drilled you. Now you need to drill it some more! What Act 1 lacked in pace, it made up for in energy and total commitment to the tale. What a pleasure to see a true team effort, performers supporting each other in their roles and working hard together to make the jokes work. The partnership between Chris McMahon and Claire Sawyer is testament to this. Carla Edgar (Sarah) and Sean Bennet (Henry/Bernard) also showed us how easy it can be to support each other on stage rather than compete for the spotlight. There are other companies who can learn a lot from seeing this production. Go together, book a table, TYO (take your own) drinks and nibbles and talk after the show. Just like the old days. If you don’t enjoy this show you can talk after the show about how wrong I was!

I love seeing Jesse Ellison give a stronger and slicker performance in each production. I love seeing Sean Bennett make more confident choices in his roles and I love seeing Dennis Coleman in a role, finally, in which he is perfectly cast. This is a strong cast overall, with obvious mentors taking the newer ensemble members through their paces. This is what I like to see. This is how it should be. This is what community theatre is all about and it wouldn’t happen without somebody wonderful at the helm. Congratulations to Nancy and Coolum Theatre Players. Once again, you’ve excelled. May you have full houses and heaps of fun!


Tania Nash (Mrs Winthrop)

Photos courtesy Neil Dearberg


a bad year for tomatoes

A Bad Year for Tomatoes

A Comedy by John Patrick

Lind Lane Theatre

14.02.12 – 24.03.12

After being in show business all her life, Myra Marlowe (Leona Kirby) is tired of pretending to be somebody else. She throws in the Hollywood Hilton towel and moves to more modest lodgings in the mountains. Only her agent knows where she is. She takes up gardening and begins writing her autobiography. She doesn’t get very far when the small-minded, small town folk interrupt her work and her new, quiet life with their petty gossip and trussed up dramas. Her seemingly brilliant plan to rid the place of pests and turkeys fails miserably. Her tricks and her true identity are revealed in the end.

Patrick wrote a farce (he also wrote wonderful screenplays, for which he is better known, including High Society and Three Coins in a Fountain). A farce is generally recognised as a humorous play in which the plot depends upon the skillful exploitation of a situation rather than upon any development of character. Well, despite the caricatures working in the first instance, there was little to no evidence of character development here so on that point, Lind Lane can enjoy some small measure of success. However, there is also, sadly, little to no skill demonstrated in terms of plot execution and the management of basic staging, pace and comic timing. A couple of the actors even appear uneasy on stage. This could be preview night nerves but, frankly, I’m getting sick of making excuses for some local performers (and directors). Sometimes, a more humble approach to the craft will do wonders. If you’re in it just for fun and you have no interest in becoming a more accomplished performer, make sure the rest of your cast know that before tech week, when it’s not too late to replace you, and skip this next paragraph…


It’s time some of you started asking questions of the people whose opinions you value (as opposed to those friends who tell you, “You were AWESOME!”). That might count me out. Whatever. If some of you ever realise that I (and other coaches, teachers and directors on the coast) know a little of what I’m (we’re) talking about, give me (or somebody else) a call and we can do some work together before you look, again, like a nervous, under-rehearsed, under-prepared beginner amateur. Seriously. Think about it. The same applies in retail, hospitality, education and business and you will have noticed that, especially in business, more and more speakers, salespeople, managers – people who want to be taken seriously by their audience – are engaging the services of acting coaches. Very smart. What the good coaches will do is stop you “acting” because we can see your efforts from the back row of the theatre and, damn, it’s painful! Sitting in the audience, we don’t want to see you struggling. We want to see you enjoying what you’re doing! Particularly in a comedy, it makes perfect sense! Think again and we’ll use a sporting analogy. If you want to play tennis with a few friends, you go hire a court and hit a ball around. If you want to be a good tennis player, the best, most confident tennis player you can be, ready for all sorts of play and ready to start enjoying the game on a whole new level, you hire a coach. By all means, if it’s what you want, you keep hitting that ball around with a few friends who are also after some fun times. But don’t expect me to tell you, “You were AWESOME!” at the end of the match. Okay? Okay.


So what happens when a farce isn’t funny? A good half of the preview audience and Director, Margaret McDonald, probably can’t answer that. The play was well received by its first audience and, apparently, there was “lots of laughter” during final rehearsals. So despite my misgivings, and counting on Lind Lane’s usual patronage, I think this cast can pretty safely assume they have a sell-out season on their hands.

During the opening ten minutes of A Bad Year for Tomatoes, I thought that perhaps if I could bear to sit through Leona Kirby saving it the way she started out doing, the production wouldn’t be so bad. She has her moments, as does Lea-anne Grevett (one scene particularly, a highlight for me, although completely OTT, is well executed, as Grevett tip-toes back and forth between the bottom of the stairs and the telephone, giving us – at last – a glimpse of some lovely natural comic ability) and Errol Morrison, who plays to the hilt, the dumb(er) wood-chopping, trespassing, over-friendly freak. At the thirty-minute mark, when the cringe-worthy neighbour, Cora (Deb Mills) returns for a second visit, I was hoping wondering if we were getting close to the end yet.

There is a particular demographic who will love this play to pieces. Clearly, I am well out of it. Older members of the preview audience chortled, snorted and upon leaving the theatre happily noted, “Well that was good, wasn’t it?” I smiled and nodded. Sometimes smiling and nodding is the best I can manage after a show. Sometimes, the less said the better. I’ve said too much already. I’m disappointed. I sincerely hope you won’t be.

If you see a lot of theatre, you can probably not feel too bad about missing A Bad Year for Tomatoes. If you don’t get out much, it could be your cup of tea. The production elements are fine (we can see how hard this company works to get great sets and costumes in front of us). In any case, let me know what you think. I don’t mind being proven wrong and I certainly hope you can tell me that that you enjoyed a faster, funnier performance than that which I had to sit through.