Left – John Howard and Jenna Owen. Cover – Jenna Owen and Natalie Saleeba. Photos – Heidrun Lohr
To paraphrase and tinker the thinker Francis Bacon, “He that hath children and grandchildren hath given hostages to fortune; either of virtue or mischief.”
David Williamson brings home the Bacon in his latest play, Sorting Out Rachel, a tale of avarice, adultery, adolescent bastardry, and assorted arsehole behaviour – lots of mischief not much virtue.
In a set piece set up, white millionaire Bruce meets his black daughter Tess at a coffee shop. Bruce begat Tess with Amy who was nanny to Bruce’s legitimate daughter, Julie, while Bruce and his wife lived in Far North Queensland. Tess’ existence was unbeknownst to Bruce’s family.
Bruce is now widowed, Amy has died too and Tess wants recognition – either that or a half share of his estate to keep her silence. Tess wants the hush money to keep the miscegeny secret for public philanthropy in the form of indigenous education and health.
Meanwhile, Julie is under siege from her bullying blogger daughter, Rachel and philandering, embezzling social climber husband, Craig. Bruce decides to visit Julie, ostensibly to give her a heads up regarding his intention of carving up his fortune, and ends up sorting out Rachel and his scheming son in law.
A cast of seasoned performers and one newbie navigate Williamson’s modern Australian landscape aspiration to affluence and the effluence of cyber bullying
John Howard leads the charge as the big bellied Bruce whose built his bank balance by land grab and retirement homes.
Natalie Saleeba as Julie is a might more virtuous but overwhelmed by her haranguing, harridan daughter, Rachel.
Chenoa Deemal as Tess also shows some semblance of virtue, but tinged with a righteous retribution, and not adverse to making a bit of mischief.
Glenn Hazeldine as Craig is brilliant as the callow, shallow scammer and schemer, skimming off the top because “everybody does it.”
And making her stage debut as the titular Rachel, Jenna Owen portrays all that is repellent and contemptible in contemporary youth – a sense of entitlement, the demand for rights but the abrogation of responsibility.
Directed by Nadia Tass, with set and costume design by Tobhiyah Stone Feller and lighting and AV by Christopher Page, Sorting Out Rachel is about sorting things out. In a word, reconciliation. A word that comes with compromise.
Ensemble Theatre presents
Sorting Out Rachel
by David Williamson
Director Nadia Tass
Venue: Ensemble Theatre | 78 McDougall St, Kirribilli
Dates: 19 January – 17 March 2018