Mark Colvin’s Kidney | Campfire CollectiveLeft – John Rado. Cover – Georgia Martin and Liz Chance. Photos – John McCormick.

How many of life’s hiccups are triggered by a series of events, out of our control, on their own trajectory to wherever they may land? One only has to watch the news – politics and mayhem – to see what can (and does) occur without any rhyme or reason.

Reputations made and lost: critical mass (and mass media) come to a head (and heart, and eventually to a kidney) in this well-devised and well-portrayed play, written by “one of the most respected and popular playwrights of his generation” – Tommy Murphy.

Mark Colvin’s Kidney, now with an extended season (due to full houses since opening night on 28th September) addresses many issues: political and media based carnage; human endeavour and perseverance; love of one another and fighting the good fight. So many stories within stories in this ‘spare’ script – not spare in emotion, challenge and courage, but spare in over-indulgence and ‘woe-is-me’. An inspiration to us all, really, and how can Murdoch’s Monopoly (and other media cronies) still have such a grapple-hold on political and private gonads? Beggars belief, really.

If we do our job well, should we not be regaled? Understood? Appreciated? Should our moral compass be visible and guide others? How come deception, cruelty, diversion, espionage, lies and criminality get rewarded, yet truth is hung out to dry, or worse, left to swing on the line in the rain, waiting for more bad weather? Mark Colvin’s Kidney takes us through the sliding doors of the high-flyer world, with “intellectual property expert” for Elle Macpherson, Mary-Ellen Field (brilliantly acted by Liz Chance) pleading her case, amongst preconceived ideas of personality, lifestyle and how it should be lived, and the consequences for standing your ground. Tweeting, twittering, emailing and phone linkage: we are connected but disconnected and the friendship evolves between Mark Colvin (take a bow Greg Aitken) and Mary-Ellen, sharing stories and common ground; audience included, and we are carried along in the same embrace.

Simplicity of set design, lighting, overhead projection of vital information (keeping the audience up to speed) and actual footage of television reports with Rupert Murdoch’s strangle-hold on world news (and the lengths toxic media will go to, to nab a story by any means – HORRIFYING) is woven into the overall play, creating many rooms, spaces and vignettes. All the while the story unfolds and how this media-practice can alter so many lives forever is so current, one would ask, “has anything changed”? The seamless set design (brilliantly devised by Tom Bannerman) and interplay of actors, sliding in and out – setting up, standing here, sitting there – works so well, I felt I was part of the play myself. Lengthy pauses and poignant moments; timing and delivery; the audience laughed on cue, cried on cue and cringed with exasperation! Accolades for brilliant direction by John Rado, yet again you nailed it. Owen Trevor-Jones is also ‘husband of the year’ with his portrayal of Bruce and being kept in the dark, yet keeping the home-fires burning. The entire cast gave their ‘all’, brimming with talent and integrity.

When Mark Colvin asks Mary-Ellen why she would offer such a gift, with no benefit to herself, she replies, “To hold sneaky politicians to account, that’s all the thanks I want…” and “saving someone’s life”, when Mark admits that people can be cruel. Mary-Ellen Field, donating one of her perfectly matched kidneys, at age 63, gave Mark Colvin five more years of life. He was able to write his memoirs and create awareness for the need of more organ donors. Meanwhile, when the footage of Rupert Murdoch, being called out for “heinous hacking crimes” responded with “…this is the most humble day of my life…” it became apparent to the entire audience (gasps and sucking-in-of-breath as it is still happening to this day) the juxtaposition of good and evil. This makes for brilliant theatre. Oh that clever writing, acting, staging, lighting and documenting, alone, could make a difference! Thank you for trying, I am a standing ovation.

The Drill Hall Theatre Company presents a Campfire Collective Project
Mark Colvin’s Kidney
by Tommy Murphy

Directed by John Rado

Venue: Drill Hall Theatre | 2 Jubilee Avenue, Mullumbimby, NSW
Dates: 5 – 21 October 2018



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