Venue: Exchange Hotel (Balmain NSW), Mar 8 – 20, 2016
Playwright: Richie Black
Director: Maggie Scott
Cast: Jamie Collette, Steve Maresca, Andrew Mead, Cecilia Morrow, Michael Wood
Image by GiGee Photography
It is not an original set up, with the larrikin underdog bemoaning the loss of community and the over-development of his favourite watering hole. We cannot resist the sentimentality of an Australian story that capitalises on our longing for innocent times, but Richie Black’s The Local offers more than the predictable. The playwright spares us the funny guy with a heart of gold narrative, and with brilliant wit, creates an entertaining work of bright, biting humour. There are hints of social commentary in The Local, but its main intention is to amuse, which results in an unusually light perspective of the subject matter, but the production is nonetheless satisfying.
Design aspects are virtually absent, giving the impression of an uncomfortable roughness, but the show is tightly rehearsed, and director Maggie Scott’s attention to detail with characterisations make for a vibrant and energetic staging. The cast establishes a confident and spirited chemistry that delivers consistently delightful comic timing, with Steve Maresca and Cecilia Morrow especially memorable for a sense of playfulness they bring to their roles. Both actors are vivacious, each with bold approaches to performance that keeps us attentive. As Ben Munro, Jamie Collette is required to play a more grounded part in the ensemble, but he takes every opportunity to bring animation to his interpretation, while single-handedly maintaining plot coherence. The comedy in The Local is big and brash, and although not without sophistication, the play does not call for understated performances, and the actors’ extravagances prove to be infectious.
It is a parochial Sydney story, but told with intelligent dialogue and sharp humour. The personalities could not be more ordinary, but their individual quirks are amplified to form the core of an effective comedy that accurately reflects a slice of contemporary life. The Local can afford to be more poignant in what it is able to say about our culture, our economy and our ambitions, but perhaps it is its insistence at declaring the glass half full that makes it true blue Australian.