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Hunters Hill Theatre: When Dad Married Fury - Review by Joshua Straw

I remember having to perform David Willamson’s The Removalists in high school, and how much I enjoyed seeing and being part of something so quintessentially Aussie while still having a unique message of its own. With that in mind, there is no doubt that I was looking forward to seeing what one of his more recent plays had to offer, and I was not disappointed. Hunters Hill Theatre has done an excellent job bringing When Dad Married Fury to life, and gives the audience a dramatic, yet comedic, exploration of family tension over money and the undercurrent of corrupt capitalist culture.

Hunters Hill Theatre have worked hard to bring this story to the stage, and it shows. Director Catherine Potter and her team have placed a clear focus on the character storytelling and the way in which information can be conveyed on stage without just saying it. As Potter states in her director’s note, Williamson is all about displaying reality with wit and thoughtfulness, and she has clearly taken the time to reflect this with her wonderful team of performers. This story offers that clear exploration of family dynamic with a tighter focus on the idea of inheritance; throughout the show we learn that all characters are flawed, and whether intended or not the audience is certainly forced to consider the importance of money on power. The characters are realistic and therefore confronting, as you can't simply sit in the audience and pretend you are not involved, making the show far more powerful as a result.

The technical side of the production was simple yet effective in allowing the family drama to unfold smoothly (if it can ever be called smooth). Penelope Korths, Catherine Potter and the Cast all played a hand in bringing the costuming to life, and I feel that they did a wonderful job of complementing each character present on stage; looking at what they were wearing throughout, I truly knew who these people were. I appreciate the way Michael Richmond, Grant Fraser and John Dobus went about building the set for this performance; there is only so much space available, and they did a great job of making a set that is functional, looks good and allows for smooth transitions in a very tight turnaround. The lighting by Mehran Mortezaei as well as the accompanying tracks during these transitions allowed the play to move along seamlessly, and at times captured a Kath and Kim-esque energy that reflected the wit and humour of Williamson.

This play would not be the success it is without the strong cast that Potter has assembled. David Kirkham as Alan had the charisma needed to embody the character, and I couldn't help but be entertained by this insanely rich and arrogant man on stage. He exuded the idea of money, not just in the way he looked, but also walked and talked. We see the power he holds over his family and the struggle he has to reconnect with them due to the barrier of inheritance. Kirkham offered a strong comedic wit that was a joy to watch and volleyed well with the other performers.Alan meets his match in the infamous Fury, played by Laura Stead. Step steps well into this role and is effectively frustrating to watch and listen to. It’s certainly fun playing the character who is meant to be disliked before they even enter the stage, and I can see that Stead had a lot of fun with this role. Her physicality matches the attitude and belief of Fury and as we get to know her own stage she becomes all the more irritating in the best of ways.

Ian and Sue, played by Michael Richmond and Julie Mathers respectively, are a fun dynamic within the story. The performers have a natural chemistry and consistently interact well together, to such a point where I found myself looking for the non-verbal communications between the two and chuckling as a result. Neither characters are innately bad people, and both performers do an excellent job with the source material in order to teach the audience that life has grey areas and, sadly, money has sway. Our second son Ben and wife Laura are played by Dave Went and Melissa Jones. These two characters offered me the most entertainment, likely because they offer the most conflict when facing up with Alan. Ben comes across slightly less confident than his brother, reflected well through Went’s physicality, and it’s fun to see yet again the way the character slowly shifts when the issue of money looms. Jones’s Laura becomes a breath of fresh air in the play, and truthfully I was quite taken with her performance. Each mannerism and response was sharp, barbed and full of wit, which was perfectly done for a character that appears increasingly fed up with the family she finds herself in. It is such a grounded and powerful role within the commentary of capitalist greed, and Jones delivers excellently. The cast is rounded out by the lovely Jan Johnson, who plays the beautifully sad Judy. In a play full of sharpness, greed and anger, Johnson offers moments of true emotion where the audience is able to sit and realise the repercussions of greed and the pain it can cause. It was hard to watch her lament on stage, specifically because it was so real and authentic. It’s a hard mirror for society to look into, and Johnnson’s Judy hits the mark.

If you think you are going to a show that is simply about a gold-digger chasing an inheritance, you would be wrong. This play is extremely enjoyable and offers a captivating message about the power of money in human relationships that will stick with you even after you exit the theatre. This is good local theatre, and certainly worth your time.

I give this production 4 money-hungry relatives chasing an inheritance out of 5.

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