Venue: Bondi Pavilion (Bondi NSW), Jul 4 – 7, 2018
Playwright: Michael Gow
Director: Nicholas Christo
Cast: Beth Daly, Meg Clarke, Norah George, Veronica Lang, Berynn Schwerdt, David Simes, Will Usic, Elliott Weston, James Wright
Images by Lynn Quiroz
Tom and his family are new immigrants to 1960’s Australia. Unlike many of their aspirational neighbours, they are content with a new residence offering a sense of freedom and egalitarianism, after having worked hard to escape the stifling mores of England. Michael Gow’s Away may not be set in 1788, but it is in some ways a story about white settlement, as we watch three white families trying to make sense of their place on this strange colonised land. They never feel completely at home, and the play urges that we attempt to find ways to explain their unrelenting anxieties and throbbing disquiet.
It is a kind of rootless existence that we witness in Away, about those who have only short histories as inhabitants of this young nation. The play opens and closes with quotations from the works of Shakespeare, as though inspiration can only be derived from old Europe; that inability and aversion to connecting with the authentic here and now, is more than a little revealing. The production however, uses A Midsummer Night’s Dream well, with the presence of Puck and other fairies underscoring much of the action, in costumes by Emma Clark that are very delightful indeed.
Director Nicholas Christo does well to introduce a dimension of ethereality whenever possible, for a magical quality that brings additional drama to the production. Not all actors are obviously suited to their roles, but it is an adequate cast that presents the show, with David Simes proving to be most endearing as both Tom and Puck. The performer is sprightly, with a charming earnestness that accompanies an admirable level of dedication he displays for the stage.
Not every work of art can stand the test of time, but there is no stopping us from new interpretations when we find them starting to wither. There is little joy in reading the same texts, in the same way, year in year out. With every revisit, tiny shifts in our culture allow us to see old things in new light. That which had been written might be characterised by a certain immovability, but the eyes that read them, can never defy the ravages of time.