Original play by David Williamson
Director Tessa Leong
Photos Marnya Rothe
Belvoir Downstairs until December 22
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
Having first seen David Williamson’s The Club on stage in the 1970s, later on film in 1980 and a couple of stage versions since, there was some hesitation about seeing a production that changed the six-man cast to a three-woman ensemble.
Part of the concern was that The Club is in the heavily blokey setting of the boardroom of an Australian Rules Football club.
The six roles are facilitated through wig and character changes. We know who’s who at all times.
There’s Ted, the Club President who has never played a game of football but has been a passionate supporter of the club since he was a small boy, Laurie The Coach who is constantly battling with committee members who think they know better, Jock the elderly stalwart who might have had a few too many knocks, Geoff the indifferent star player with the high price tag, Danny the journeyman team captain and Gerry, the slimy administrator with the aplomb and sincerity of an advertising executive. He has been brought in to inject professionalism into the stale, old school management.
Jude Henshall, Louisa Mignone, Ellen Steele are fine comic actors (actresses) who milk the laughs for all they’re worth.
Even though Tessa Leong has included some subtle ironies there’s been some heavy-handed direction in this production, with much of it overplayed, such as the exaggerated leg-spreading and the two-handed second act opening performed in inflatable penis costumes. At times it makes The Three Stooges seem understated. The pathos of the human condition has been whacked over the head.
After the intermission there are multiple role changes and numerous surprising twists. It will be interesting to follow the touring production considering Jude Henshall’s current situation.
This version of The Club at Belvoir is certainly the most unusual interpretation of a Williamson that I’ve seen, and it’s ultimately thought-provoking, entertaining and will definitely sustain your attention throughout.