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Theatre Review: Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts Ensemble Theatre until April 2

by David Williamson

Photo Credit: Clare Hawley

It’s his 50th!

If you ask theatre-goers to name Australia’s greatest-ever playwright, the unanimous answer will be “David Williamson”.

Forty-eight years ago, Williamson started to give Australian stage productions an Australian voice rather than the pseudo-English voice that was prevalent at the time and was synonymous with the cultural cringe. He brought us the violence of The Removalists, the unmistakeably Australian-ness of Don’s Party, the autobiographical The Coming of Stork and, more recently, Rupert.

The Ensemble Theatre is staging Williamson’s 50th play, Jack of Hearts, which clearly shows that the master has lost none of his drive, enthusiasm, skill and humour.

It opens with the couples, Emma (Paige Gardiner) the personal trainer and Jack (Chris Taylor) the lawyer who doesn’t want to work in law, and Stu (Craig Reucassel) the sleazy real estate salesman and his wife Denys (Brooke Satchwell). The plot thickens when Carl (Peter Mochrie) the narcissistic current affairs television personality, Nikki (Isabella Tannock) the hot real estate receptionist and Kelli (Christa Nicola) the resort manager add to the dynamic when they all coincidentally meet on a Queensland island resort.

In that environment, each character suddenly becomes undecided, confused and fickle. Williamson uses the intriguing theatrical device of Jack becoming the resort stand-up comedian, and he advances the plot as he breaks the fourth wall to interact with members of the audience. The technique works beautifully.

Under Williamson’s direction, Peter Mochrie and Paige Gardiner are strong and credible and Christa Nicola is powerful, present and riveting. Brooke Satchwell has really matured as an actor and seems to have been vocally inspired by another Australian actor, Jennifer Hagan. Chris Taylor and Craig Reucassel are known for being in television’s The Chaser. The humour comes through because, apart from the stand-up comedy element, the lines are not played for laughs, which makes it more effective. Comic relief does come through Isabella Tannock who, as Nikki, has the looks of a young Jane Kennedy and the voice of Effie.

If you attend this production, you’ll have a great time and you’ll laugh out loud.

At the age of 73, David Williamson is as prolific as ever, and don’t be surprised if he cracks the ton.

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