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Theatre Review: The Dapto Chaser

by Mary Rachel Brown

Produced by the Apocalypse Theatre Company

The Stables Theatre until July 25

It seemed an age since I’d seen the theatrical quintessence of working class Australians that wasn’t penned by David Williamson. Mary Rachel Brown’s The Dapto Chaser, which could not be more Australian, was first exposed in 2011 and is now on at The Stables Theatre in Kings Cross.

Dapto, a town about 100 kms south of Sydney, is best known for the Dapto Greyhound Racing Club, or the Dapto Dogs. To the working class in the area, it’s more of a religion than a sport, like the AFL in Melbourne on a small scale. “Dapto Dogs” is a part of Australian rhyming slang and is firmly established in the vernacular, and the town of Dapto has been broadly described as “Wollongong without the glamour”.

Errol Sinclair, a well-known local entity, is an old man whose entire life has revolved around the dogs and betting on the dogs. Beer and smokes are his only other interests. He’s not a well man, but his physical limitations haven’t blunted his enthusiasm and he’s open to any legal or illegal way of winning. Like some of the people who bet on Lotto, Powerball and the lotteries, Errol lives for the big payday, only he’s more fanatical. Errol’s wife died a while ago and younger son, Jimmy, has taken on the role of carer. Other son, Cess, who has inherited his father’s obsession and life attitudes, has his hopes pinned on the future winnings of his greyhound, a genuine contender named A Boy Named Sue.

When the Sinclair family situation takes a turn for the worse, life shifts from “struggling” to “desperate”, and the future is now in the hands of a wealthier, corrupt and unscrupulous powerbroker in the Dapto Dogs microcosm.

Stage and screen veteran Danny Adcock absolutely captures the Errol “aplomb” of thousands of older working class Australians in reflecting underlying optimism, hope, anger, grumpiness and frustration. In an acting career spanning 46 years, Adcock continues to bring it to the stage. I most appreciate actors with whose performances you don’t notice the acting, and Adcock is one of those actors.

Another is Jamie Oxenbould who seems to have become the “go-to” actor for productions that require a character that is recessive, oppressed, dominated and whose life path is determined by someone else until it becomes too much. Then the pent up frustrations and inner torment are released in an explosion of unbridled emotion. At the same time, Jimmy is resigned to never fully succeeding. As credible and intense as Oxenbould’s character is, the actor is almost effortless in this type of role. You don’t see him working; it’s organic. The ultimate compliment is when you can’t imagine another actor in the role.

Richard Sydenham as Cess, provides the balance to Jimmy’s yin. Cess possesses all of the optimism, hope, cunning and ineffectiveness of his father.

As the slimy, power-hungry, status-obsessed, ethically-challenged Arnold, another experienced actor, Noel Hodda, perfectly portrays the small-time supremo, the Dick Dastardly of the story. Sporting a pencil-thin moustache, you can see the inner workings of the character, but not the actor.

Credit to producer Dino Dimitriadis for attracting this cast, and just as significantly, for appointing Glynn Nicholas as director. The Dapto Chaser is a drama that necessarily contains a great deal of humour, although at no time is it played for laughs, which is why it works. It’s especially in this area that Nicholas’ expertise and experience becomes evident. The tweaking of phraseology and comedic syncopation and timing, turns a fine script into a series of “moments”.

Just as you can’t imagine anyone called Ando, Dicko, Johnno, Jacko, Simmo, Stinno, Thommo, Bluey, Davo or Macka anywhere but in this country, The Dapto Chaser is unmistakably Australian.

This is an excellent production that will be at The Stables until July 25.

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