Taking Liberty | Deckchair TheatreLeft – Greg McNeill and Stuart Halusz. Cover – Luke Hewitt, Benj D’Addario and Greg McNeill. Photos – Jon Green

Regardless of the fact that I know we won the America’s Cup in 1983, the last 15 minutes of Taking Liberty last night had me leaning forward in my seat, barely breathing in anticipation.

The gripping conclusion of Deckchair Theatre’s latest offering directed by Chris Bendall, was delivered with such still, quiet expectation that the capacity audience leapt to their feet in rapturous applause at the result. Perhaps it was partly for the pride inspired by the victory and partly in recognition of the actors and creative team that deeply enthralled us to emotionally invest in the characters and their journey.

It’s not “just another boat race”. Winning the America’s cup became an obsession for Alan Bond and a passionate dream for Ben Lexcen and John Bertrand. Played by Luke Hewitt, Benj D’Addario and Stuart Halusz respectively, the actors matched their real life counterparts as much in looks as in mannerism.

Just as Prime Minister Bob Hawke endeared himself to our nation the day after the victory with the quote “any boss who sacks a worker for turning up late today is a bum“, the characters in Taking Liberty were so accessible and passionately performed that it was easy to be drawn into their world. They transported us back to the early hours of the morning in September 1983 when half of Australia stayed awake to witness history in the making.

Writer Ingle Knight weaved the language of the historical players with nautical exposition and theatrical drama in a beautifully crafted script. The actors delivered the dialogue with fluency, particularly at moments critical to building the tension. At times, the actors switched characters with fluidity. Greg McNeill, Nick Candy and Craig Williams all played multiple roles, often with different accents and they were all gripping to watch.

It can only be described as an inspirational story. As pointed out by Assistant Director Joe Lui in the dramaturgical notes; “We cherish the victory because even though the costs were great, we need to believe that we too can best Goliath with tenacity and cunning.” It may have been a fairy tale finish, but the play tells the story of courage, obsession and never giving up despite financial, mechanical and legal pressure.

Andrew Bellchambers’ multi functional set design was flexible, so that we could quickly be transported between board room, yacht club and onto the famous boat, Australia II, itself. With the audience on both sides and within “splash distance” of the action, the intimacy heightened the intensity. Lighting a traverse stage in a space not designed to be a theatre must have been difficult, however in the young but expert hands of Trent Suidgeest, it was a scenic triumph. Together with musical excerpts and atmospheric effects provided by sound designer Kinglsey Reeve, it was quite the blast from the past.

With Perth currently playing host to the ISAF Sailing World Championships, this is the perfect location and perfect time to launch the season. Being relevant to theatre lovers, boating enthusiasts and anyone with an interest in historical events, Taking Liberty is sure to draw good crowds.

PLEASE NOTE: With regard to the start time, we were surprised that the show went up at 7.30pm given that the start time on BOCS is listed as 8pm. As a result, we regrettably missed the first 10 minutes of the play.

Deckchair Theatre in association with Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships presents
by Ingle Knight

Director Chris Bendall

Venue: Victoria Hall | 179 High Street, Fremantle, WA
Dates: Friday 2 – Saturday 17 December, 2011
Tickets: $20 – $40
Bookings: BOCS Ticketing 08 9484 1133 | www.deckchairtheatre.com.au

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