Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Sep 15 – 19, 2015
Playwright: N. Gregory Finger
Director: Stuart Owen
Cast: Richard Clark, Catherine Davies, Chris Heaslip, Daniel Hunter, Douglas Kent, Michelle Millgate, Nid Oswald, Stuart Owen, Kate Parker-Frost
N. Gregory Finger’s Our Father Who Art (Nearly) In Heaven takes the form of a classic farce, with fast paced, frivolous and wise-cracking scenes of amusement emerging one after another. The show is old-fashioned in ways, but many of its jokes are genuinely funny, often with a pointed flamboyance that prevents it from being a dowdy imitation of its forebears. Its characters are clearly defined ones who reference familiar archetypes that we are more than comfortable making fun of. These less than dignified personalities are placed in the predictable situation where they find the patriarch with one foot in the grave, all scrambling to secure a slice of the estate. Hilarity does ensue, quite surprisingly, proving that wit and flair can trump innovation under the right circumstances.
Direction of the piece by Stuart Owen is suitably speedy and madcap. The script’s many short sequences are deftly handled by Owen who uses stage space intelligently, although lighting design could be more responsive to his attempts at shifting our attention. Efforts at imbuing energy into every interchange gives the show an exuberance that keeps us engaged, although the wide range of abilities in the cast of nine is a major weakness that is hard to ignore. Some of the players are clearly inexperienced, and even though there is never a shortage of enthusiasm, the inaccuracy of their portrayals can be punishing. Owen saves the day however, with an excellent performance as Ben, one of the dying man’s son. He is charming and rambunctious, with perfect comic timing that elevates the show with his every appearance. Owen’s ability to present varying styles of humour, and his versatility at depicting his character’s temperamental transformations, is delightfully memorable. The very animated Chris Heaslip plays Damian, the other son, also to good effect, with an infectious confidence and a steadfast love for performance that shines through. Heaslip can be repetitive with his manic approach to the role, but his vigour is crucial to the delirious experience that the play delivers.
Fashion comes and goes, but when it comes to entertainment, we can always go back to the tried and tested. Our Father Who Art (Nearly) In Heaven is a new play that reminds us of special moments of laughter in movie and live theatres in years past, and its stylistic revival is remarkably welcome.