‘An Anzac Duo’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by September 3, 2015

‘An Anzac Duo’ – two exceptional one-act World Premiere plays are being presented for a short season at the Old Mill Theatre, on the corner Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth. The 100-minute performances are nightly at 8.00, with the last show on Saturday 5th September.

 

‘Armistice Day’ poignantly written by Noel O’Neill and powerfully directed by Valerie Dragojevic.

The scene is a down-market pub around 1950, with a bar and hardwood chairs and tables.

     The barman, Blackie (Rex Gray) announces ‘time’, but the two ex-servicemen have no thoughts of going home. They are waiting for their friend Davey (Phil Barnett), after all this is their annual get together to reminisce on their war years.

     As he sinks another whisky, Mick (David Partridge) recalls having his toes blown off, but for poor young, trembling Tommo (Travis McCurry) things are much worse, he has still not overcome his shellshock. When Davey arrives, with fury in his eyes, the conversation turns to an event that happened in the last few days of the war.

     Can their comradery be strong enough to get them through their psychological problems?

For those old enough to remember returning servicemen – from any war – we know their silence, the secrecy as to what actually happened, their character changes and often the inability to see the lighter side of life; Noel has once again hit the nail on the head, he has written a super script, with a huge depth to the four, perfectly conceived characters. Director Valerie has taken the cast, given them courage and guidance to enact the tremendous emotion and tension demanded. The performances were all outstanding, but a special mention must be given of Travis and Phil’s depiction of the suffering vets. A stunning play.

 

‘The Tip of the Spear’ is richly written monologue from the pen of James Forte. It is based on an actual army Glider Regiment’s mission in June 1944. It has been described as the most daring and clever piece of flying in the whole of World War ll as carried out by Staff-Sergeant Jim Wallwork, who died only a couple of years ago, aged 93.

The star of the play, Ray Egan, directs himself.

The scene is a local bar, just after a Veterans’ parade.

     An ex-army serviceman in a smart suit, proudly wearing his red service beret, and with a beer in hand, takes a seat at a pub table. With a wistful look on his face, he starts to relate the amazing story of his night mission to destroy Pegasus Bridge.

Ray is an extraordinary actor. Famous for his madcap ‘Dinner for One’; he now turns on the pathos, as with tears in his eyes, he recalled the ghastly happenings of that astonishing night. A magical performance.

 

‘Dolls from the Sky’ is a cleverly structured play, written from the heart by local playwright, Yvette Wall. It is then brought to life by director Mary Wolfla.

It is Australia in 1948; the scene is a comfortable sittingroom, with a three piece suite and coffee tables.

     Anna (Natalie Aung Than) is a widowed Polish emigrant, who has been the housekeeper – ‘and nothing more’ – for an ex-soldier, Tom Johnson (Andrew Watson), who each night, is still reliving his war memories.

     To help her mental state, Anna has asked the local priest if she can help clean the church each week. Snobbish, Miss Betty Brown (Kerry Goode) a ghastly bigot, is in charge of the roster and is sent around, with her assistant Margaret (Yvette Wall) to talk to Anna. Prudish Miss Brown detests this foreigner being on Australian soil; but Margaret, also a war widow, seems to have formed a bond with Anna.

     Will the friendship take an unexpected turn?

Yvette has written a deeply moving script. A tale that starts with the rich characters making the audience laugh and yet cringe at the same time. Award winning Kerry played an extremist, the type that were still commonly around even a few years ago. Then the mood changed to tragic drama, with this dynamic cast firing perfectly on all cylinders.

Magnificent performances that made you gasp at the tension within the house, and what a broken heart can do to a person. Luckily, we still had a few tissues left from the first play.

 

Often with short play productions, there is one good play with the other one or two sadly there to give a local author a chance to try out their first – sometimes, very average – play. On this occasion we had three, truly outstanding pieces of writing, cleverly directed and presented by three hugely talented casts. Not a weak link to be seen.

The middle play, is at the Old Mill for two nights only, before it moves over to the other side of the suburbs, Marloo on Greenmount Hill, where it will play for a couple of nights there.

You do not have many opportunities to see these plays, but cancel everything else to see them. An amazing night of theatre.