Thursday, 7 December 2000

Harry's Christmas by Steven Berkoff & Fathers by Louis Milutinovic, Dec 7, 2000

at La Mama, Dec  7 to 17, 2000
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

 Fathers is a short play written by Louis Milutinovic during the NATO bombing in 1999, his first year in Australia. It has striking moments, moving themes and some slick dialogue. This is a fine piece on which La Mama ends its year.

It is an abstract play that takes the relationships between fathers and sons into the afterlife. We realise this only after the initial scenes. Milan Petrovich, (John Flaus) an ageing father, searches the Serbian battlefields for his lost son, Ivan. (Gary Abrahams)

What he finds is three men all called Ivan Petrovich, all soldiers, all related to him, all dead on the battlefield. He too is dead.

There are echoes of Sartre's No Exit which has a group of mismatched and angry people in a room together. Milutinovic's men are also confused about their fate. Slowly their relationships are revealed. Deda (Paul Hooper) is actually Milan's grandfather who died young. The Communist partisan (Scott Gooding) is Deda's son and Milan's uncle.

"It is hard being Serbian - but beautiful," quips the grandfather. Milutinovic writes potent dialogue and an intriguing narrative which resonates with the anguish of a war-torn and troubled nation.

The play could have been longer. It is good leaving an audience wanting more. The only problem was the introduction, in the final minutes, of the women searching for their men. It was melodramatic and unnecessary for the drama.

Harry's Christmas was written by the extraordinary English actor/writer/director, Steven Berkoff. This production, directed by Wendy Joseph, is performed by Kiran D'Costa.

D'Costa simply does not have the acting skill to tackle this role. It is too complex and the intricacies of the text and character are buried in this production.

Berkoff is a versatile and charismatic actor who wrote his own material to highlight his exceptional physical and vocal skill. This script for one actor playing Harry, is a beautifully written study of a disturbed and lonely man as he faces the emotional black hole of Christmas.

Harry tilts from faked joy and faint hope to despair when he can find no old girlfriend to join him for a drink. He is a prime example of the dysfunctional urban suicidal male. Harry is not a role for an amateur actor.

By Kate Herbert

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