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Canberra Today 11°/15° | Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Wonderful Williamson but, oh, how it’s aged

Daniel Greiss as Mike and Hannah Lance as Helen. Photo: Cathy Breen

Theatre / “Emerald City”, by David Williamson, directed by Anne Somes. At ACT Hub until June 25. Reviewed by SIMONE PENKETHMAN

DAVID Williamson’s 1987 play, “Emerald City” centres around the film and publishing industries in Australia. It begins with the age-old Sydney v. Melbourne argument. 

Screenwriter, Colin (Isaac Reilly) and his book editor wife, Kate (Victoria Tyrell Dixon) have just moved with their family of three children from Melbourne to Sydney.

Colin is taken by the excitement of the harbour city, contrasting its climate of sunshine punctuated by dramatic downpours with Melbourne’s endless drizzle. To him, success means a harbour view and he’s on the road to the waterfront. 

He is merciless in criticising Kate’s virtue-signaling Melbourne friends. Kate takes it in her stride. Her career is also on the up, over the course of the play she publishes a successful novel by an Aboriginal writer that is shortlisted for the Booker Prize. 

Kate appears to have complete responsibility for their three children. She provides progress updates about issues of concern to a barely interested Colin. His main interest seems to be pointing out her hypocrisy in enrolling one of their daughters in a private school.

Colin is a successful screenwriter but he’s tired of writing action films that aspire to an American audience. He wants Australians to tell our own stories. To Colin that means stories about white men in times of war.

Coilin’s script idea is declined by both his savvy Sydney producer, Elaine (Helen McFarlane) and his financier, Malcolm (Patrick Collins).

Mike (Daniel Greiss) is an aspiring screenwriter who agrees to support Colin’s project in order to have a writing credit to launch his career. 

Isaac Reilly as Colin. Photo: Cathy Breen

Mike’s partner Helen (Hannah Lance) seems to exist only to be a temptress, enabling Williamson to show us what a great guy Colin really is. 

The ’80s have seldom seemed so long ago to me as while watching Williamson’s 1987 play about the glamour of the arts in a converted community hall in Causeway in 2022. 

This satiric show has a lot of words and not much action. Free-Rain Theatre Company stages it like a boozy comedy of manners. 

Helen McFarlane as Elaine. Photo: Cathy Breen

Victoria Tyrell Dixon is strong and confident as Kate. Isaac Riley portrays Colin’s utter lack of self-awareness with gormless charm. 

Helen McFarlane’s Elaine added a fun energy to the show.

This play has not aged as well as some of Williamson’s other works. It feels overwritten and the many direct addresses to the audience seem largely redundant. 

The ACT Hub is a promising new addition to Canberra’s theatre venues. It is being run by four local theatre companies. It’s comfortable and well heated with ample parking.

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Ian Meikle, editor



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