Left - Andrea Moor and John Wood. Cover - Jacki Weaver and Robert Coleby. Photos - Rob Maccoll
There is no mistaking Let The Sunshine as a David Williamson play. It has everything you’d expect: multitudes of witty one-liners, politics, clichéd female characters; and all set in that slice of Aussie life encapsulated by midlife crises and domestic turbulence.
Set in Noosa and Sydney, the play delves into the lives of three related couples. Toby and Ros (played by Robert Coleby and Jacki Weaver) are gearing up to celebrate Toby’s 60th birthday after recently moving from Sydney to Noosa. Toby is a left-wing documentary film-maker with a fair share of failures behind him, and Ros is a reasonably successful publisher. Through a local bookclub, Ros meets up with old highschool friend Natasha (Andrea Moor) and her husband Ron (John Wood), an extremely wealthy property developer, and the four of them develop a strained friendship. Thrown into the mix are Toby and Ros’ son Rick (Paul Ashcroft), a down and out singer with talent but no drive, and Emma (Rachel Gordon), the daughter of Ron and Natasha, a ‘ball-breaking’ corporate lawyer. Given this left-to-right range of character types, you can well imagine what Williamson has in store for everyone. To get the narrative rolling, chalk-and-cheese opposites Rick and Emma fall for each other (of course), giving cause for the parents (especially Toby and Ron) to lock horns again and again.
And therein lies the problem with Let the Sunshine. What you imagine is exactly what happens, and the ending is one of the most trite and disappointing I’ve seen onstage in a long time. My real gripe, however, is how Williamson continues to write his female characters. Jacki Weaver in particular has very little to work with, and unfortunately her performance isn’t terribly convincing. Moor plays the very one dimensional Natasha well, but for how much longer do we have to endure these awful stereotypical rich bitch types that have not one quirk of character? Gordon is great as the acerbic daughter striving unhappily to be made partner in her cutthroat law firm, but again, the character disappoints. Emma gives up her career to become a mother and surprise surprise, she’s unhappy in that too. Seems there’s no pleasing women, is there?
On the male character front, no-one writes them quite like Williamson. Wood is a delight as the larger than life conservative and politically incorrect Ron. Lines like “If I was racist, the race I’d hate the most would be the Indians”, “The Roman Empire collapsed because the intelligent women didn’t breed”, and describing his daughter as a “Mack truck with brake failure,” sum him up perfectly. Ashcroft does a good job in the character of Rick and, despite some odd lighting choices, shines during his live song.
Naturally in a Williamson play there is the inevitable feud, and in Let the Sunshine it comes about when Ron backs son-in-law Rick with half a million dollars to become a Sydney music producer, which leads Toby to question his leftwing parenting style; meanwhile, the new grandmothers undergo a hackneyed tussle over who gets more visit time with the new grandchild.
For a play set in two very different places the set is incredibly one dimensional, lacking movement and interest. It’s a big risk staging a big budget two hour play using one set only and it doesn’t really pay off. The costume design is good but I couldn’t help but wonder why some of the characters had costume changes after certain scenes and others didn’t, it seemed a very odd directorial choice.
There are some big names in this project: Michael Gow (director), Williamson, Wood, Weaver, Coleby and Moor, but unfortunately the end result is less than the sum of its parts. It’s the fabulous one-liners and the performances by a stellar cast that make this show enjoyable. Despite the problems, there are enough laughs to make this an entertaining night out.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
Let the Sunshine
by David Williamson
Director Michael Gow
Venue: the Arts Centre, Playhouse
Dates: 28 July - 4 September, 2010
Tickets: $42.55 -$83.15 (Under 30s $30)
Bookings: MTC 03 8688 0800 | mtc.com.au | the Arts Centre 1300 182 183 | theartscentre.com.au