Don Parties On – a review

DOES the past mean something to you? How about the future?
Nanjing Night Net

Or would you rather just live for the now and party on? The latest production from the Glen Innes Arts Council drags us from the raucous Don’s Party of 1969 and brings us blinking back into Don and Kath’s living room forty years on.

For those of you who haven’t read or seen the original Don’s Party, this is a wonderful opportunity to meet the flawed yet faithful characters that David Williamson first brought to the Australian stage.

For those of you who have had the dubious honour of meeting those characters before (and let’s face it, we all know a few people who bear a striking resemblance to those characters) this excellent local production is a must!

The set, overseen by Steve Wright, is perfect. The production’s classy attention to detail on set and behind the scenes is a tribute to the overall production and the strong team approach of the Glen Innes Arts Council.

Rose Price’s direction is finely tuned to Williamson’s writing.

This is not a necessarily an easy play to direct because of its domestic nature combined with the occasional lunge into sadness or sheer tomfoolery.

However Price has done the work justice by allowing her actors the space they need to take us into the past, into their heartfelt beliefs and worries and return us – laughing – back into the moment. Such efficient direction of the actors’ actions integrates nicely with Williamson’s dialogue.

If two roles were created for our local actors it would be ‘Don’, the party’s Lefty host, for Graham Price and ‘Cooley’, the larrikin Liberal, for Stuart Moor who are frighteningly natural in their characters and deliver strong performances.

Equally at home in her role as Don’s dry yet loving wife Kath is Sally Halloran. Other Baby Boomer comebacks to the party include Mal, played with effortless humour by Steve Wright; Jenny, Mal’s ex-wife and ex-Minister, played by Naomi Bain; and Helen, Cooley’s wife and refugee supporter, played by Penny Lawrence. The experience of all three actors is obvious and gives each character a wonderful opportunity to unveil their hidden secrets that emerge throughout the night’s shenanigans.

‘Don Parties On’ also introduces new generations to spice up the mix. Richard, Don and Kath’s slightly wayward Gen X son is played by David Jennings with realism and dedication. Richard’s daughter, Belle, is played by Matthew Moor. No, don’t do a double take.

Matt’s gentle and clever portrayal of Gen Y Belle is unnaturally natural and works well amongst the other characters. Roberta, played by Jodie Bain, is a lovely addition to the second half of the play. Roberta is Richard’s ‘totally crazy but hot’ new love and her character really gives the party a new lease on life. Through the course of the evening, and many bottles of wine, the characters find themselves redrawing the lines they have drawn over the years. Their conversations are tracked by the television’s coverage of the last Federal election and this mix of stimuli covers Australian energy consumption, taxes, crafty politicians, love affairs, loyalty, parenting, generation gaps, sex, party snacks and more!

Can ‘bygones be bygones’?

Not so easy when Don has written a ‘tell-all’ book about the guests from his previous party and we all know that the people we know the best are not always the one who are going to tell you what you want to hear! Williamson’s clever, contemporary Australian approach to all that we hold dear combined with good comedic, and sometimes emotional, delivery are the real strengths of this play.

There are no real winners and no real losers, just old friends – ‘substantial people’ and human optimism. My advice? Get along and have a party!

Tickets are $20 and $15 and are available from Carelles (Play contains strong language)

Opening Gala night is on this Friday August 31.

Saturday 1st September, Matinee 2pm Sunday 2nd September. Then 4th, 6th, 7th and final night 8th September. All 8pm starts except the matinee

Don played by Graham Price

Kath played by Sally Halloran

Richard played by David Jennings

Belle played by Matthew Moor

Jenny played by Naomi Bain

Mal played by Steve Wright

Roberta played by Jodie Bain

Helen played by Penny Lawrence

Cooley played by Stuart Moor

Director Rose Price

Producer Chris Hodder

Set Design Steve Wright and Rose Price

Set construction Stuart Moor, George Muckensnabel, Graham Price, David Jennings and many others

Lighting Will Geach and Mal Kiehne

Sound Will Geach and Graeme Quinn

Prompt Abigail Wright

Backstage Stuart Brummell

Artwork & Photography Steve Wright

Front of House Leslie Moreton & Crew

Advertising and Promotion Nicci Jones

Booking Agent Carelles Young World

Reviewed: Monday, 27th August 2012

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.