Review: The Young Tycoons (Spooky Duck Productions / Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

darlinghursttheatreVenue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), May 16 – Jun 15, 2014
Playwright: CJ Johnson
Director: Michael Pigott
Actors: Briallen Clarke, Laurence Coy, Andrew Cutcliffe, Paige Gardiner, Edmund Lembke-Hogan, James Lugton, Gabrielle Scawthorn, Terry Serio, John Turnbull
Image by Noni Carroll

Theatre review
Australia’s media moguls are a source of constant fascination for the general public. We are intrigued by their wealth and power, their influence on politics and public policy, and their control over our daily discourse through news and information that they disseminate. They are part of a celebrity culture that feeds an insatiable appetite for inconsequential gossip, with their public lives exposed to public scrutiny. Our interest in the Murodchs and Packers of the world is usually nothing more than a petty fixation, but keeping an eye on the powers that be is clearly necessary, as leaving them completely to their own devices would very likely result in calamity.

CJ Johnson’s writing does not create direct links between the actions of The Young Tycoons and our own lives. They are objects presented for our examination and entertainment. It is arguable whether the characters are intrinsically interesting, but in Darlinghurst Theatre’s 2014 production, it seems that it is the actors’ work that determines how the story connects. Edmund Lembke-Hogan is spirited and comical as Kim Vogler, one of the play’s two third-generation billionaires. His performance focuses on delivering robust comedy, and it works. Equally effective is Laurence Coy’s Ted Vogler, Kim’s father, whose coarse demeanour is irresistible and an obvious favourite of the audience.

Women play second fiddle in the show, but they shine brightly in their own right. Paige Gardiner elevates a somewhat amoral personality by attributing to her character Sally Kilmarten, a believable complexity and affable warmth. Gabrielle Scawthorn has the thankless task of playing the severest role in quite a boisterous comedy, but she attacks her scenes with conviction and a surprising dignity that prevents Sherilyn Moss from turning into an unfortunate caricature.

The play is composed of successive short scenes. This allows for its pace to be fast and exhilarating, but scene transitions are not always managed smoothly. Director Michael Pigott adds an understated stylistic flair, but having every scene detached and standing alone can sometimes be disruptive to the narrative flow and feels too literally interpreted. Sound design does help on several occasions, but can itself be distracting at certain points. The Young Tycoons is a funny show about people of a certain echelon. Its appeal might not be general, but it will no doubt speak to many who cannot escape the seductive and scintillating cult of celebrity.