11/04/2014 at 12:41 pm 1 comment

Belvoir St Theatre, April 2014

It’s possibly the best kept secret in showbusiness that directing a play is 1) the easiest job in the world and 2) essentially an act of fraud. Just turn up and give them a script, preferably one that’s pretty good, and if the actors are worth their salt you’ll walk away looking like some kind of Sorcerer of Magick. Never mind set and costume and whatnot the real work is in the wrangling of the bag of cats that passes for what’s known in the industry as “talent”. Actors are notoriously shallow, fickle and hopelessly insecure. I should know. I’ve spent twenty years trying not to become one. There’s a special kind of egomaniacal joy in the moments backstage, or in rehearsal, a sense of self-importance and swagger that can only come from something so utterly meaningless as Art.

Difficult to explain, but I’ve seen actors threaten to refuse the stage without their jacket. I once shouted at a technician for not playing the correct warm-up music in the ten minutes just before the house went live (and that was just in the past month). Because although there are literally thousands of us walking the streets of any given city the show is quite impossible without us and as we know all too well, to paraphrase Mr Coward: it simply must go on. And this show does, for a quickfire 80 minutes or so of a play about a play within a play that may or may not have played out but for the concerted efforts of the cast who in rehearsal for two plays play out a joyful body of work. So altogether there’s three plays in one. I think. Possibly four. It’s complicated.

As the beleaguered Bob Menzies (he’s *very good* in this show) explains in the opening salvo of the production this may not be the play you turned up expecting to see. The Parry Estate refused permission to perform the originally scheduled production as advertised The Phildelphia Story – but fear not, because the minds at Belvoir have crafted a forensic theatre verité depicting the goings on behind the scenes, a real insight into the delicate art of programming and rehearsal, the intricate process behind the magic of show. The careful development, the incremental choices which build throughout to become a work-of-art, all is laid bare. The actors are playing themselves (they’re all *very good* even if not much “acting” is required) – and while Writer/Director Simon Stone does not (lamentfully) feature as himself, it is clear he is taking great risk in exposing his much-lauded process of adaptation to the microscope. And for this I salute him.

It’s all so very, very true to life. A fascinating study for any student theatremaker or person-on-the-street to enjoy, a veritable verbatim open-house and we thoroughly recommend you go and see it for yourself.

The Government Inspector by Simon Stone and Emily Barclay after Nikolai Gogol Instead of The Philadephia Story by Philip Barry after His Wife (Not The Episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air which goes by the same name), devised with the cast. Directed by Simon Stone (if that is his real name), featuring Fayssal Bazzi, Mitchell Butel, Gareth Davies, Robert Menzies, Zahra Newman, Eryn Jean Norvill and Greg Stone, featuring music by Stefan Gregory.

rating: *Very Good*
*warning* contains occasional use of gold flutter.

Entry filed under: Sydney THEATRE.


1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Fiona  |  11/04/2014 at 9:02 pm

    Dear Philistines,

    The Government Inspector was a wonderful and stupid laugh. Fast paced, heaps of swearing, slapstick to-boot. It was a bawdy, intercultural, shakespearean, comedy of errors. The audience were also key to winning the moment. In our 40s-50s age demographic, we seemed collectively prepared to participate in the stupidity of it all.

    This was really due to some charming characterisation, expert ‘showmanship’ and a ludicrous plot. I had a good chuckle about a set of circumstances that were never meant to be. A play within a play. Yes, enjoyable if happy to just be in a laundry-mat esque moment, of life itself.


    Fiona Hollingworth


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