The Playboy of The Western World | WAAPAPhotos – Jon Green

The Playboy of The Western World is a classic, written by JM Synge, first performed over 100 years ago, and a text I studied at drama school 20 years ago. It’s an appropriate challenge for budding actors to find the humour and tragedy embedded in the script, sometimes deeply into the subtext. Then there’s the challenge of learning and maintaining a consistent accent for characters living on the west coast of Ireland. These are both things the cast did very well, but for the audience, it’s quite hard-going.

Audiences have changed in the last century and while most theatre enthusiasts appreciate the classic texts, we are so over stimulated with action, drama, romance and spectacle, that slow moving traditions and wordy exposition can become a little tiresome. Director Patrick Sutton seems aware that the play might not be as engaging as it once was, but he and the cast certainly played their part in bringing it to life.

Claudia Ware was every bit up to the role of Pegeen Mike. Her beautiful features and hair in long, tight spirals falling over her angular frame contrasted with her tongue as sharp as a Viper. Ware showed both the assertive force and fickle nature of the young bar maid and was delightful to watch.

With a name like Seamus Quinn, the young man cast as the Playboy himself, Christy Mahon, must surely have a little Irish heritage to draw on. His dashing good looks and towering height placed him comfortably in a position to be celebrated by his peers, despite the fact he had declared himself a murderer. Quinn also had the opportunity to explore a range of emotions as his relationship with the peasants of the town in County Mayo changed.

Luke Fewster was quite endearing in his role as the pathetic Shawn Keogh, intended husband of feisty Pegeen but nowhere near "man" enough to partner her. If the chastising he received in the dialogue wasn’t enough, his facial expressions, quirks and posture remained a consistent reminder of his inadequacy.

Credit to Rebecca Gulia for taking on the role of Pegeen’s father, Michael James Flaherty. Although the make-up and costume had pantomime-like qualities, it was necessary to distract us from her actual gender.

Megan Wilding once again impressed me with her stage presence, but this time had the opportunity to show a softer side in addition to the powerful and manipulative demeanour of Widow Quin.

With all the action taking place in one room, the set design by Dolly-Mere Nettleton was detailed, interesting and functional. It also created space for the actors to play to an audience on three sides. Another technical element of note was the execution of the fight scenes. The actors, trained by Andy Fraser, were committed to making the moves look effective while humorous at times.

The Playboy of the Western World is worth a look for those wanting to enjoy fine performances, appreciate the classic text or connect with a little Irish history.

The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts presents
The Playboy of the Western World
by JM Synge

Directed by Patrick Sutton

Venue: Roundhouse Theatre
Dates: 12 – 18 Jun 2015
Tickets: $30 – $25

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