So how do you get more Australian bums on seats in theatres? It’s been a question haunting many a theatre manager for years – especially considering the outrageous imbalance of attendance when compared to sporting events. Well, if you’re David Williamson, you’ll write a play about sports – it’s obvious.
In a co-production between the Queensland Theatre Company & Black Swan Theatre Company, David Williamson’s latest work, Managing Carmen premiered last week at QPAC, as the last hurrah for QTC’s 2012 Season.
At 23, Brent Lyall has it all – star football player, trophy model girlfriend, two Brownlow medals, and a manager eager to make both of them big bucks in product endorsements. But Brent (played by Tim Dashwood) has a secret which he literally keeps in the closet for the sake of his career… and the big bucks.
[pull_left]a hilarious satirical morality tale about what society prizes the most about a human being[/pull_left]His eye-on-the-prize manager Rohan Swift (Jon Batchelor) hires Jessica Giordano, a corporate performance enhancer psychologist (Claire Lovering), to groom Brent and improve his overall marketability and uncover whatever is blocking him from being the club’s cash cow. What ensues is a hilarious satirical morality tale about what society prizes the most about a human being.
Tim Dashwood as Brent and Carmen (aka Carmen Getit) goes through quite the transformation. With legs to die for, his alter-ego can shake his booty with the best of them, while still allowing Carmen to be a believable character. Interestingly, I seemed to believe Dashwood as Carmen more than Brent the football star.
Maybe it was the opening night adrenaline rush that took a little time for people to settle into their characters. Maybe we as an audience had to adjust to the farcical tone that we weren’t quite expecting from the piece, to jump on board for the ride. Either way, the show did pan out to be laugh-out-loud funny all the while holding up a mirror to society. It’s a delicate balance, (which Williamson writes so well) and director Wesley Enoch astutely utilised the comedy to its full capacity.
John Batchelor was perfectly ridiculous as Brent’s manager Rohan, ironically the most sane “real world” character on page, but the most slapstick funny on stage. Anna McGahan was also perfectly cast as Brent’s paid for stand-in girlfriend Clara. Once they bonded over designer dresses and handbags, ‘the girls’ turned into a fun and flirty party duo, which was fun to watch.
Greg McNeill was faultless as Max Upfield, the shady dog-with-a-bone sports journalist/gossip columnist. Claire Lovering who played the psychologist Jessica, had an interesting jouney through the play as she had to come to terms with her own pre-conceptions and issues of tolerance.
The set design by Richard Roberts added high gloss production values. Most modern stages look like an IKEA display room, but this was slick with a striking and impressive shiny black tiled eleven metre revolve stage that incorporated all the acting spaces including Brent’s apartment, Rohen’s office, Jessica’s lounge room, a bar, a nightclub and somewhere by the sea. These elements were cleverly lit by Trent Suidgeest, which enhanced the high gloss design. Audio Visual Designer Declan McMonagle also added multi-media cleverly. Projected images onto the walls also enhanced the nightclub scenes. The only disappointment was that the sports commentary pieces weren’t specifically produced for the show. Instead they opted to use pre-taped TV footage with a voice-over.
Managing Carmen plays its World Premiere season from 13th October until 4th November before moving it to the Black Swan State Theatre Company in Perth from 10th November until 2nd December, followed by The Ensemble Theatre’s Sydney Premiere, which opens on the 6th December.