Saturday, 26 June 2004

Amigos, David Williamson, MTC, June 26, 2004

Amigos  by David Williamson 
Melbourne Theatre Company
 Playhouse, Vic Arts Centre,   June 26, to July 31, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

There is something hollow about David Williamson's latest comedy, Amigos. It lacks heart and leaves us feeling we have eaten nothing but soup.

Amigos is peopled with dislikeable, self-promoting, shouting characters all suffering from Status Anxiety. It is a play about power, competition, jealousy, betrayal and friends one would not wish on one's worst enemy.

Jim (Gary Day) is a callous, shameless, sickeningly wealthy investment banker who prides himself on destroying people's livelihoods with his corporate takeovers.

In 1968, Jim and his three rowing cronies won a bronze medal for Australia at the Olympics. One team member died from AIDS, another, Stephen (Garry McDonald) is grieving for his dead son.

Dick, (Tony Llewellyn-Jones) a successful heart surgeon, is the only one of the team that Jim bothers to see. They call themselves friends but they deceive and manipulate each other. Dick is a Companion of Australia and is now on the Honours selection panel. The unscrupulous Jim will do anything, including blackmail, to get an AC after his name.

When Jim invites Dick and his wife, Hilary, (Wendy Hughes) to his extravagant beach house, things go awry Jim's trophy wife, Sophie (Natasha Elisabeth Beaumont) and Hilary are in a bitter stand off.

When Stephen, the last of the team, arrives uninvited, he triggers a series of revelations of long held secrets and everyone runs for cover. The plays gets more interesting at this point.

Jim has no redeeming features. He is an ugly corporate raider, his wife is an ex-hooker and fortune hunter. Dick and Hilary boast of their positive qualities but are no more likeable. Only Stephen has a moral core and even he takes his petty revenge.

The plot lacks substance, subtlety or credibility and relies too heavily on unlikely revelations, secrets and cheap gags. The final scenes are disconnected from, and unbelievable in the context of the earlier scenes. The pace of the second half is more varied.

Williamson's social satire deteriorates into cheap jokes and two-dimensional characters and the dialogue feels unauthentic particularly for the women.

A striking set by Michael Scott-Mitchell features painterly backdrops behind stark, stony walls although the conveyor belt carrying actors and furniture is over-used.

Director Jennifer Flowers, struggles to find any subtlety or variation in this script and the cast of fine actors fight with flimsy dialogue to find any depth for their characters.

LOOK FOR: Michael Scott-Mitchell's design

By Kate Herbert

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