By David Williamson. Club Ryde, Hunters Hill Theatre. Director Catherine Potter Club Ryde. 16 June – 2 July, 2023
Reviewed : 16 June, 2023*
This isn’t really your usual David Williamson! Sure the barbs are there and some good one-liners, but the characters are a little more real – and the social satire a lot more cutting. Why? Because this play is about money! Money made by ruthless financial advisers, money lost by trusting investors, money anticipated by hopeful heirs.
Set in the aftermath of the GFC, the play centres on septuagenarian Alan, a multi-millionaire who has returned to Australia with his new, young American wife Fury – much to the consternation of his sons, Ian and Ben, because Fury has refused to sign a pre-nuptial agreement! What will happen to their father’s millions? Will Fury get it all? And what will Alan say about Ben’s father-in-law, who committed suicide after losing all the money he trusted Alan to invest?
The plot even gets a little stickier as the play unfolds, with religion, politics and gender issues further confusing the already fraught family. Fury is a lot more than the money digger they expected. Alan is a lot less than the man than he led Fury to believe. And that’s not all … but to say anymore would spoil Williamson’s clever manipulation of expectation, ethics and eventualities.
Catherine Potter uses a spare set carefully designed to suggest affluence without the complication of too many props. This gives her room to concentrate her direction on the characters and their reactions rather than where they are or when. Interaction is key to Williamson’s writing, especially when there are seven actors working together on a relatively small stage – and Potter has given her cast space to develop their characters and relate effectively.
David Kirkham plays Alan, finding all the pride and arrogance with which Williamson has endowed this unscrupulous character. He keeps the character tall and smug, self-righteous even when confronted with the wife of one of his suicidal victims. Kirkham gives depth and conviction to his portrayal of this mostly unlikable character.
Michael Richmond plays his engineer son Ian, who, with his lawyer wife Sue (Julie Mathers), is determined to salvage his share of his father’s money. Richmond and Mathers work well as a couple, supporting each other, picking up clues from each other, reacting ‘in harness’, whether to Alan’s accusations – or to Fury’s revelations.
Dave Went plays Ben, the second son, an associate professor of literature, who, with his politically and socially aware wife Laura, lives on the north coast “closer to Lismore” than Byron Bay. Went shows multiple sides of Ben’s character – the academic with strong ideals, the envious brother who’d like the expensive holidays Ian can afford, the son who really craved his father’s affection.
Laura, on the other hand, is mourning her father and the effect of his death and the loss of his savings on her mother. Melissa Jones finds the depth of Laura’s bitterness in a quiet but watchful performance that simmers in her accusing eyes and smouldering cynicism. Only with her mother, played with realistic confusion and resentment by Jan Johnson, does Jones show the softer side of Laura’s character.
And then there is Fury! Former beauty queen, successful business-woman, Tea Party American “girl next door”. Laura Stead is all of this in a carefully judged performance that takes Fury from nervous new bride through a range of much more complex and unexpected reactions.
Catherine Potter’s production balances these characters and the complications of their personalities in this play in which David Williamson looks at the darker side of human greed and unethical behaviour.