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Castle Hill Players: A Few Good Men - Review by Jordan Anderson

‘You can’t handle the truth’. That was the extent of my knowledge of ‘A Few Good Men’ before walking into the Pavilion Theatre in Castle Hill; and after walking out, I now understand why that single sentence has permeated the mass collective and become one of the most well-known lines in modern cinema. Director, Annette Van Roden, and Castle Hill Players have done an incredible job with Aaron Sorkin’s script to create a performance full of light and shade, humour and tension and some of the best performances on show in Sydney.

From the moment you walk into the theatre, it is clear this company takes their details seriously, and because of this you know exactly what you’re in for. A bare stage with a beautiful lighting state highlighting shadows and images in the set that aren’t there, a glimpse of barbed wire peeking out from the fog and an industrial fan that doesn’t stop spinning in a never changing cycle. The set is beautiful in its barrenness, a stark look into the no frills nature of the Navy/Marine Corps. And once the drama begins, the set effortlessly and quickly transforms from scene to scene, with well-trained ease, allowing you, the audience, to not drop focus for a second. An obvious testament to the dedication and work put in by commanding Stage Manager Rod Bishop, to whip his cast into shape.

Of course, the most beautiful and efficient of sets is nothing without the actors to bring it to life, and Castle Hill Players has assembled one of the finest casts I’ve seen on a Sydney stage. Leading the production as Lt. J.G. Daniel A. Kaffee, a role made famous by Tom Cruise in the 1992 movie, is Dimitri Armatas. Dimitri has made this role his own and carefully balances the line between funny man and troubled lawyer. While as a character he doesn’t necessarily have the most to lose, like the two marines on trial for murder, Dimitri makes clear just how high the stakes are for Kaffee on a personal scale and lets us peer deep into the doubt and worry that plague him, before turning on the charm for the judge. Working as the foil for Kaffee is Brendan McBride as Lt Col. Nathan Jessep, made famous by Jack Nicholson. It feels like Brendan was born to play this role (and I hope he doesn’t take offense to this comment) but everything about his performance felt incredibly natural, the bully, the schemer, the power player, the womaniser, it all oozed off him in spades and he controlled that stage like it was Marines serving under him in Guantanamo Bay. These two incredibly talented actors used the comedy of the script to their advantage to help arm and assist the tension on stage, and watching them face off in court, with all the shifting power dynamics was riveting (I couldn’t look away to take notes). All of it ever edging closer to that moment (you know the one) and then Bamn! Like that, the air was sucked out of the room, like a punch to the gut.

Not to be outdone in this boys’ club is Jacqui Wilson as Lt. CMDR Joanne Galloway, played by Demi Moore in the movie. She plays role of the audience’s morality insight with a polished perfection, someone who is unafraid to stand up to the bullies and to do what she thinks is right, but unfortunately also someone who must work 17x harder than everyone else to get ahead. Also worthy of commendation is Jessep’s third in command, Lt. Jonathan James Kendrick, is Jono Burt. Here is a man who understood the assignment, every second Jono is on stage he knows exactly who he is and how he fits into the hierarchy of the room. And God help whoever’s with him when he’s the top dog, because you can be damned sure you’ll know.

Rounding out the rest of the main cast is Jonathan Hartley as Lt J.G. Sam Weinberg, Chris Scarpellino as Capt. Matthew A. Markinson, Lachlan Armstrong as Lt. Jack Ross and the two Marines on trial for murder, Toby Rowe as LCPL. Harold W. Dawson and Hamish Ingersoll as PFC. Louden Downey, all who performed their roles exceptionally well. Smaller Cameo roles by Steve Rowe, Madhavi Shankarling, Rod Bishop, Todd Beilby, Grant Brennan and Emmanuel Said, created a variety of characters on stage, but all helped focus on the injustice of the story.

You have 3 more weekends to go see ‘A Few Good Men’ at the Pavilion Theatre and I strongly suggest you do. Castle Hill Players always puts on a good performance, but in all honesty, this was something else. I give this show 5 Good Men and 1 Woman who can handle the truth!

Photography provided by Chris Lundie

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