Theatre Review: Charitable Intent at The Concourse, Chatswood

Charitable Intent by David Williamson

Reviewed by Ron Lee 17 September 2014

The Concourse, Chatswood

Photo by Clare Hawley

The Ensemble Theatre’s final part of The Jack Manning Trilogy dramatically demonstrates the concept of “Community Conferencing”, also known as “Restorative Justice”. For more information, look at my review of Face To Face, the first of the trilogy.

A not-for profit organisation has been experiencing steady, year-on-year growth, but the Board of Directors has decided to replace the old CEO with a young, ambitious woman who has promised dramatic improvements.

She appointed her own, very young team to replace the Chief Financial Officer and the head of promotions, fund raising and media relations, which has caused friction and consternation within the organisation. Present at the meeting are the new team of Cassie (Chloe Bayliss), Tamsyn (Persia Blue) and Guilia (Jessica Sullivan), board member Brian (Noel Hodda), the two who have been replaced and are being pushed out, Amanda (Fiona Press) and Stella (Ally Fowler), CEO Bryony (Catherine McGraffin), and again, Glenn Hazeldine plays the mediator, Jack Manning.

To ensure continuing employment, Guilia, Cassie and Tamsyn cowtow to the pushy and arrogant Bryony, while Stella and Amanda, both loyal and dedicated to the organisation, stand up to the CEO and are emotionally and physically drained, but vow to continue. Brian is in the middle of the sandwich.

The journey from the beginning of the meeting the inevitable result is interesting in the ways in which it draws out the feelings of each participant and the evolution of each as everyone involved gains clarity.

Even though each play in the trilogy is different and stands alone in it’s own right, the common format is fascinating and playwright David Williamson brings the characters into reality on the stage. Director Sandra Bates has again achieved a nice balance of cast members, with very experienced actors working with relative newcomers and all are strong and credible. There are no weak links.

In the format that The Jack Manning Trilogy is, there are some challenges.

On the occasions in which all three plays are to be performed on the same day, Jessica Sullivan will play two different characters, Glenn Hazeldine will be Jack Manning times three, and Ally Fowler will have to play three different characters. In all three plays that I saw over three weeks, Fowler was outstanding, and I’ll be curious to find out how she copes with the one-day marathon. In English repertory theatre, they perform a play at night while rehearsing another during the day, but I can’t think of the last time that an actor was required to portray three different characters in three different plays on the same day. I suspect that she will take it in her stride and again excel.

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