Don's Party

The Adelaide Repertory Theatre Inc. Arts Theatre. 22 Jun 2012

David Williamson wrote Don’s Party in 1971, the same year he wrote the The Removalists, and six years before The Club.  By 1987, with Emerald City, the best of him was over yet most of his plays were still to be written.  Don’s Party is justly famous for the charming language and behaviour of the Labor firebrands who had hoped to change the world but instead settled for middle class qualities that once were talking points but are now so familiar – ever larger houses, huge debts and suburban resignation.  Williamson was a prophet and we love to laugh at ourselves in this play as Don’s party never really ended.

Megan Dansie assembled a terrific cast and welded them into authentic blasts from the past through detailed characterisations and fulsome interactions.  While it all seemed natural and easy, this is a vexing play to direct because of its fluidity - placement on stage for focus and comic timing were all achieved.  The laughs came easily and frequently from a coupling of the brilliant dialogue and twinkling performances. 

The only factor was the uneven energy levels amongst the cast members which took the edge off the dialogue at times, but this is most likely a variable commodity night to night.  Paul Rodda lacked nothing in this regard and he gave a Mal about to explode at any moment from frustration at almost everything.  His Mal’s descent from self-confidence to drunken buffoonery was a joy to watch. 

Georgia Stockham gave a perfect Kath whose outburst in the final scenes was overdue.  Celeste Aldahn as the sole self-proclaimed Liberal supporter provided a subtly seductive Jody who was as attractive to the audience as to Mal and Mack.  Jaye Gordon did an amazing job with the tricky role of Jenny.  Ben Crisp as Cooley was offensively charming and Thorin Cupit composed a lovely snapshot of Mack.  Sarah Agius, Clare Glenn, Steve Marvanek, Jamie Wright and Anthony Vawser rounded out a really great cast. 

Ole Weibkin is your man for a fetchingly realistic 1960s home, including the addition of an outdoor patio, but another four hours would have put a coat of paint on the walls.  Pia Chapman and Denis Harford did a great job on wardrobe, hair and make-up – did people really look like that, OMG?

Although the Don’s Party I attended lacked a bit of protein, this is your invitation to enjoy one of the greatest of Australian classics.           

David Grybowski

When: 21 to 30 June
Where: The Arts Theatre