Review: Smurf In Wanderland (National Theatre Of Parramatta / Griffin Theatre Company)

>Venue: SBW Stables Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), May 2 – 13, 2017
Playwright: David Williams
Director: Lee Lewis
Cast: David Williams
Image by Brett Boardman

Theatre review
Life means little without passion. David Williams loves football, and he is here to tell us all about it, whether we like it or not. Smurf In Wanderland offers us more than a glimpse into the world of a football tragic, and while it may often be tedious for those of us who are sport-averse, Williams’ more general observations about Sydney life are truly valuable. He talks about modern city tribes, and all the silly things we do to feel belonged. There are attempts at explaining desire, the most potent yet bewildering of human qualities, looking at why we do the things we do, and the bizarreness of us all as a species.

There are moments of poignancy, fleeting yet memorable, including a sequence about the discontentment of those in Western Sydney, and our habitual postcode bias against those perceived to be less metropolitan. We delve into the fundamental masochism involved in rooting for teams when games will always insist on having losers. There is a lot to relish about Smurf In Wanderland, but it all lies beneath the surface. We are given an opportunity to understand our community better, but it is not always an enjoyable process. Sifting through Williams’ obsessive detailing of soccer fandom is fun for some, but exasperating for others. It is a story about us and them, told in a way that makes the ostracism it is concerned about, feel very genuine indeed.

As performer, Williams is charismatic and engaging., with a determination that forbids our attention from straying. His enthusiasm for the Sydney Football Club is a propulsive force that fills the stage with energy, and we must respond with anything but ambivalence. At the end of the piece, there will be individuals who experience fulfilment, and those who will feel worse for wear, but it is likely that all will share a fondness for the personality we had met.

The presentation breaks through the superficial walls we erect between one another. We imagine people to be different, as a way to validate our own existences, but we all exist in undeniable parallels. Our values may be different, but the lenses through which we view the world do not alter the world as it is. If art and sport are in opposition, then Smurf In Wanderland forces us out of our echo chambers and disrupts the silo effect, at least for one night. To love thy neighbour is easier said than done, but few things are as worthwhile an exercise.

www.riversideparramatta.com.au/NTofP | www.griffintheatre.com.au