It might have a familiar ring. That's because it's not its first showing at Potts Point's incongruously named Darlinghurst Theatre. Indeed, this was a show much loved in its past incarnation and deservedly so, for it manages that rarest of dialectical feats: perspicacity, with accessibility.
Madam, Edwina Brumble, is undisputed Empress of the Cross (when it was still, arguably, at its bohemian best): even in her own parlance, a colourful identity. Her colour, of course, very much enhanced by her licentious utterances, grossly exaggerated, fantastical costumes and the fact she's played, with relish, by a man.
Terence Crawford has, clearly, invested a phenomenal amount of time and craft in this pseudo-Shakespearean two-hour comedic opus, which also calls to mind the similarly razor-sharp pencil of C J Dennis. Indeed, narratively and stylistically, Crawford's gentle, if not genteel, nod to The Comedy of Errors, also recalls The Sentimental Bloke; set, as it is, in our sinful city of Sydney.
For mine, this is a work of profound, prodigious and prophetic skill.
(Of course, TC has quite a pedigree: apart from the previously produced 'Love's Triumph' (Three Ways Theatre Company, 2003), 'Shondelle the Tiger' (Sydney Fringe Festival, 2001), 'Autumn' (Griffin, 1995, & New England Theatre Company, 1996), 'Pierrot and Columbine' (Theatre of Image & STC, 1995) and 'Pushin' Up Daisies' (Griffin, 1992). 'Shondelle the Tiger' and 'Seminary Songs' have even been produced by the ABC as radio plays!)
The star turn is hard to pick: all are, at worst, very good; but, in the end, it's a deadset photo-finish, 'tween Ms Brumble, 'transtestite' evangelist Hoover J Idiot and the set, as witty as the script (and that's saying something). A gold, upturned lampshade (or what looks like one) easily evokes AMP Tower; the hotly pink Harbour Bridge sofa is a masterpiece of Ednaesque kitsch and Royal Randwick, alone, will almost have you in stitches.
Brumble herself is not only set to lose her 'prime cut' to the unpredictable, cherubic archer, but fistfuls of dollars, to say nothing of her only (adopted) daughter, Chastity, to a naive, but goodhearted country boy. But the real triumph of love is over sleazebag bent copper, Rossini, who makes a play for 'Eddy', for reasons unclear, even to himself. Meanwhile, Morrie Fairway, a big-hearted, hopelessly addicted punter is in deep debt to her & is facing a certain future as fishfood: if he doesn't make good, & mighty quick, he'll enjoy the vantage-point of Mrs. Mac's famous chair but one last time. Ironically, around the very same time, black-and-white bumpkin bros, Darcy and Brad, hit Central's country platforms, fresh-faced, from Broken Creek, to make their fortunes. Darcy falls Angelique (Brumble's best) & lands himself in gaol; no place for a blackfella. Brad falls victim to the turning preacher's devilish desires. It comes to pass, one-and-all's futures ride on the back of a doubtful promise, running in the 4th. Love triumphs (phew!), not least in the form of said nag in a neck-'n'-neck, but it's a rocky road.
The narrative is plausibly set in uptown Sydney's seamy, shadowy 70s, when parts, at least, were, most probably, a bastion of organised crime & rampant corruption in much the same way as Melbourne's mean streets are now. Always paying homage to the 60s, when assassinations were so much more fun, Crawford has steeped the story in the richness of not-quite-contemporary language, unmistakably, laconically all-Australian; but has borrowed & judiciously bastardised The Bard's familiar and comforting cadence, as well as conventional plot devices.
The laudable cast boasts unforgettable performances from Garry Scale, Mark Owen Taylor, Megan Drury, Andrew James, Rob Thomas, Damion Hunter, Pearl Tan and Robert Woodhead and, on this occasion, direction is by Brendon McDonall, who appears to have well-and-truly triumphed himself.
Set and costume by James Brown is, of course, worthy of extra-special mention!
The last word goes to David Martin, of Actors Australia Online, who said of this production's predecessor, on November 4, 2003: 'the underworld, police corruption, racial discrimination, flawed humanity and dysfunctional families are addressed with poetic political incorrectness and brash one-liners.' Which sums it up rather neatly.
The Muldoon Wing and Darlinghurst Theatre Company present
By Terrance Crawford
Venue: Darlinghurst Theatre Company 19 Greenknowe Avenue Potts Point
Dates: Wednesday 28 March to Saturday 21 April 2007
Times: Tuesday – Saturday 8pm Sunday 5pm
Tickets: Full $30, Concession $25, Preview/Subscribers $20
Bookings: 8356 9987 or online at www.darlinghursttheatre.com