Only Heaven Knows | Luckiest Productions and Hayes Theatre Co

Only Heaven Knows | Luckiest Productions and Hayes Theatre CoLeft – Tim Draxl and Ben Hall. Cover – Ben Hall, Matthew Backer, Hayden Tee, Blazey Best and Tim Draxl. Photos – Robert Catto

With a title that evokes Hollywood melodrama movies, especially from the Forties and Fifties, Only Heaven Knows certainly takes its tropes from time honoured thematics. The trick is not to let it slide into hackneyed cliché, to do it with style and a substantial truth.

This is certainly the case with the current production of Only Heaven Knows at the Hayes Theatre.

Alex Harding's play has been knocking about for thirty years, with a celebrated production by Les Solomon over 20 years ago featuring David Campbell as Tim, the wide eyed Melbourne boy come to make his mark in Sydney during World War Two. David Campbell's wife, Lisa Campbell, is producer on the current show, with creative consultancy by Les Solomon, a wink and a nod to one of the Alex Harding's book about the importance and resilience of cultural roots.

The first act takes its cue from John Rose's marvellous memoir, At The Cross, and his migration from Melbourne to Sydney in pursuit of bohemia. Like John in the book, Tim in the play finds digs with a local colourful identity and den mother to the queer community. In the play, her name is Guinea Newbolt, a nightclub singer.

To a boy of seventeen, Guinea and Kings Cross was glamour and life, cementing a certainty that this was the place for him. Quite soon romance blossoms, when Tim takes the eye of Cliff, a David Jones window dresser.

Their relationship is strong and monogamous, they co-habit under a closeted subterfuge, Cliff pursues the Australian Dream of home ownership. Tim still has dreams of making it as a writer, even if it means going off shore to do so.

Under director Shaun Rennie, Only Heaven Knows bubbles off the stage, with a disciplined spontaneity that whirls the audience into the pleasures and pains, friendships and feuds, vibrancy and vicissitudes that spanned the decade and a bit from Japs in the Harbour to Reds under the Beds. There is a robust relish for the comic and a profound pathos infused in this production, a blending of affection, honesty, history and the contemporary.

Ben Hall as Tim cuts a dash and a swathe through the character's journey. His musical skills beyond question, his dramatic chops at the fore as he seems to grow up before us. Tim Draxl as Cliff, fair dinkum good Aussie bloke, the epitome of mateship with matinee idol romantic lead finesse. Matthew Backer as Alan, Cliff's ex, is excellent as a man so struggling with his homosexuality he condescends to suffer shock aversion therapy. Hayden Tee pulls double duty as the Ghost of Drag Queen, Lea Sonia, who opens each act and delivers a timely epilogue, not to mention a rousing solo of the song, Stealin', as well as playing  Guinea's bestie, Lana, born Geoffrey, bon vivant of the malapropped bon mot. Blazey Best as Guinea is at her blazingly best (and, really, on recent form, isn’t that all the time). 

Michael Tyak musical direction on tickled ivories that twinkle alternately with glee and sadness evokes simple opulence, as does Brian Thomson's marble and silver set, splendidly augmented by Trent Suidgeest's lighting. Emma Vine's costume choices are divine – period clobber with a splash of meta-theatricality replete with a spectacular weaving of iconography.

Most musicals come charged with a choreographer but in this production, Ellen Simpson is credited as movement director. It is perfect for this show and space – elegant, evocative and economical.

Luckiest Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co presents
written and composed by Alex Harding

Directed by Shaun Rennie

Venue: Hayes Theatre Co | 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point NSW
Dates: 26 May – 1 July 2017
Tickets: $68 – $78
Bookings: | (02) 8065 7337


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