Sunday, March 5, 2017


The only trouble with Siren Theatre Company's The Trouble With Harry was that it was nearly, so almost, trouble free, but just enough short of fully trouble-free to be a bit frustrating.

In a conscious effort to get to more theatre, and a conscious effort to support the Mardi Gras events, off we went. I knew little about the story, other than Harry wasn't a real Harry, and murder most foul was only the beginning of what scandalised Sydney in the 1920s. K knew nothing. The audience was very female skewed, and I happened to quip to one couple - "Bit of a girl night!" - which drew a quick retort - "then you'll fit right in dear" - and we roared with laughter and giggled about it sitting across the aisle from each other, she especially pleased with her quick wit. "Serves you right" said K.

On a spare set, so beautifully lit that I wish there were some visual records somewhere, with some stunning compositions and direction by Kate Gaul, with marvellous use of four simple curtains to define time, space, illusion, and mystery, the story of Harry Crawford from Lachlan Philpott's pen evolves in the lanes and pubs and poverty and struggle for survival and love in the rough guts of early 20th century Sydney. This was the Sydney of my parents formative years. It interests me a lot.

I loved what Mr Philpott wrote. I'd like to read it, and linger with it. The use of the 'Under Milkwood' like man and woman to describe the scenes, paint visual and acoustic pictures, play with emotions, echo (literally) the action, and spell gossip and innuendo in a poetic vernacular was at once much the core of the beauty of it while at the same time much the source of the trouble. I, and not alone I think, was missing too much. It flew past me too fast when I would really have liked to savour the words, let alone stay abreast of some details.

The full story I didn't grasp till I read the Herald's review (and what an amazing and heart breaking story) after the show.  I had a pretty good grasp on things, but K was struggling, and one woman we spoke with heading to the car park said she hated it because she didn't ever get to grips with the plot. Which is a big shame, because it was all there, the jig-saw falling into place. And yes, audiences have to pay attention - it's not play school - I know, but ...

Anyway, I'm reluctant to criticise. The cast I thought were wonderfully good, especially the difficult woman playing a woman playing a man of Jodie Le Visconte, Jane Phegan's brave but hapless wife, the wide-eyed innocence, not for long though, of Jonas Thompson's son, and the deeply disturbed daughter of Bobbie-Jean Henning. I was ultimately moved to tears.

The Seymour Centre was pretty brutally minimal. Maybe some lights swung outside? Gosh, even coloured ones? Or is this the new way of the world. Anyway, it's a good theatre space, the small one downstairs. Heads up to Siren. Ham Funeral next.

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