City for Sale is a slick modern comedy based not so much on an Orwellian ‘Brave New World’ as a Swifter version of a past one, back to the future of feudalism. It’s offering at the Darlinghurst Theatre till the 26th May.
This is another of the lands of Utopia where everything is classed according to property and property is classed according to position. It’s a rather intriguing scenario which is wrung to the last drop by author Tim Bosanquet in what seems, at first breath, to be a very tight, well crafted and very funny script. Director Helen Tonkin has given full reign to the work with great zest carried throughout. Barry French’s set is both frugal and functional with a coffee table that does everything except sing. French also plays several characters within the course of the entertainment. Also of note is Emma Lee Crane’s expressive, tongue in cheek posters that grace the set.
Bagley, played by Steven Matthews is an actor, the paid side kick to the unscrupulous real estate predator, Caroline, played by Sandra Stockley. Both give wonderfully full and sustained performances, Matthews in an all but straight interpretation to Stockley’s deliciously carnivorous agent of prey.
Against these two are pitted Joan, played by Sara Browne and her yet unblooded associate, Debbie, played by Marian Frizelle. Both give very creditable interpretations especially when seen in Browne’s confidential disclosure of her first transcendent experience as novitiate agent. The confusion is well set up in the first Act when the representative of the Mortgage Council (French), a restructured form of government in New South Wales, sets the two opposing teams the task of selling properties for him, without subtefuge, winner to take all in the property portfolio stakes. Up to this point it is great fun however the plot founders in the second Act especially in the denouement. The introduction of the potential buyer ‘baits’ Aaron, played by Benjamin Brock, and Sally, played by Louise Fischer, lead to the subsequent machinations that beguile the combatants into sinking to ever greater depths of cunning and duplicity.
While it is comedy’s prerogative to take plot into hyperbolic situations and resolve the most convoluted confusion with a Gordian swathe nevertheless, apart from aficionados of Agatha Christie, an audiences generally expects a cued outcome according to Robert Storey in his ‘Comedy, its Theorists and the Evolutionary Perspective’. In essence the audience looks for signals to know what to expect. The ‘key’ to the rogue/hero’s union at the end of the play first came to light in the second Act and was more a tantalising distraction than point of resolution and the union itself came well out of left field.
No matter, the author is master of his universe and can fabricate any ending he likes. It may well be a case of Bosanquet saying, ‘I know what you’re expecting and it isn’t going to happen like that.’ That’s all well and good but such a contrivance will never leave the audience with ‘a pleasurably self-ratifying intuition; the sense, in Frye's words, that "this should be."’ (Storey). In most other aspects the play and its production was very entertaining. Debbie captured the essence of ‘the fool's defining malady’(Storey), Bagley’s rogue ‘slipped by both shame and guilt to savour the fruits of audacity’(Storey) and Caroline, master of the wit, found "No problem is insoluble given a big enough plastic bag." (Stoppard, Jumpers)
City For Sale
By Tim Bosanquet
Venue: Darlinghurst Theatre Company 19 Greenknowe Avenue Potts Point
Dates: Wednesday 2 May to Saturday 26 May 2007
Times: Tuesday – Saturday 8pm Sunday 5pm
Tickets: Full $30, Concession $25, Preview/Subscribers $20
Bookings: 8356 9987 or online at www.darlinghursttheatre.com