Home Sweet House!
Dream Home by David Williamson
Director David Williamson
Photography by Claire Hawley
Review by Ron Hylton Lee, CSP
Ensemble Theatre until March 28
“Should a playwright direct his own works?”
This is a question that has been asked since Theatre began.
Arguments against are numerous. The playwright is too close to the work so he/she can’t be objective. The playwright is a wordsmith who doesn’t necessarily relate to actors well. Technical aspects such as sound, lighting and blocking might not be in the playwright’s skill set. Some playwrights are extremely precious with their work. “Don’t you DARE change a WORD!”
The Ensemble Theatre is staging Dream Home, a play written by David Williamson and directed by David Williamson.
A young couple, Dana and Paul, who are expecting a baby, have finally moved into their own home, a flat in a block of four in Bondi. Their initial excitement quickly dissipates when they encounter their neighbours. Sam (Justin Stuart Cotta), a member of “The Lebanese Lions”, is inordinately jealous, has a violent temper and almost no fuse. His wife, Colette (Libby Munro), is a former model with a secret past that she shares with Paul.
These days, it takes a talented writer to play on cultural stereotypes without verging on perceptions of racism, but Williamson accomplishes it with a great deal of wit.
Henry (Alan Flower) is a charisma-devoid engineer (excuse the tautology) with some sexual fantasies that he is yet to play out. His wife Cynthia (Olivia Pigeot) is a frustrated, highly-sexed Qantas flight attendant who says she is approaching retirement. As an aside, according to my experience, a female flight attendant in her 40s is not even close to retirement at Qantas.
The other neighbour, Wilma, is played by Katrina Foster whom I haven’t seen in a play since the 1980s when she was usually cast as a sexy young woman. This time, she is an older person who bakes cakes to take to bingo (where has the time gone?). It’s a Dorrie Evans character in a play that I can’t help but to compare with television’s Number 96 which was also also set in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.
The tensions in this microcosm of the larger society make for interesting dynamics between each of the sets of characters. Paul, a beta male, prefers a process of discussion and conversation with Sam, the powerful alpha male. Paul’s wife Dana, although petite, is feisty and confrontational.
The first act perfectly sets up a faster-paced second act that includes farce.
All of the players in this are strong and credible, and the most interesting casting is that of Paul and Dana. Guy Edmonds and HaiHa Le recently played the young Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng in Williamson’s Rupert. In real life, the two actors live together in Paddington, around the corner from the Number 96 building in Moncur Street, and Bondi is the next suburb, so the relationship between the two is also organic, and it comes across on stage.
With continual references to Paul looking like Tom Cruise, It seems that Williamson wrote the role for Edmonds or adapted the script for him because I can only think of one other actor who could play a character who looks like Tom Cruise, and he’d be too expensive for a production in a theatre that only holds around 250 people.
Melbourne-bred writers are usually and obviously “very Melbourne”, but Williamson has also successfully morphed into a Sydney person, with penetrating insights right down to his scripted observations of Bondi Beach locals.
Word from the rehearsal room said that although he knew what he wanted, Williamson showed a spirit of collaboration with the cast, and they ended up including the concepts and interpretations that worked best.
An indicator of a successful comedy is when I later ask, “Did I laugh out loud?” It was a big “Yes” for this one.
So, does the playwright/director concept actually work? No. Not unless you’re David Williamson, the Superman of Australian theatre.
This is another Williamson well worth seeing, and from the reaction of the audience, you would do well to book soon. I took my diminutive, ninety-year-old maiden aunt and informed her that there would be quite a bit of swearing. She replied, “I don’t mind swearing as long as it’s not at me”.