Wednesday, 16 March 2005

Tyranny by Barry Dickins, March 16, 2005

Tyranny by Barry Dickins 
The Builders Initiative
La Mama, March 16 to April, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Many of our successful playwrights, including Barry Dickins, began their writing in the late 60s and 70s at the Pram Factory.

Robert Reid's project called The Builders Initiative is founded on the commendable am to invite those playwrights to write new scripts to be directed by artists from the current theatre generation.

Ironically, Dickins seems to have incorporated something of this notion of old and new artists into his new absurdist play, Tyranny.

An elderly writer and intellectual, Eros Clare (Sharon Kershaw) nurtures a clutch of young wannabe artists who call their group, Dyspathy. She provides them with writing workshops, stimulating discussion and access to her rambling old mansion.

She is eccentric, decorative, successful and generous to her protegees, particularly the two boys, Henry (Mike McEvoy) and Johnny (Gareth Davies).

Eros is painfully unaware of their secret contempt for her and their clandestine plans to murder her and take all her money nor is she aware of the power of their girlish leader, Sandy. (Frances Marrington)

When they do attempt to kill her, she believes she should forgive such "fascist indiscretions of the younger generation."

Of course, in typical Dickins style, all of this horror is embedded cunningly in elaborate linguistic meanderings and hilarious social and political commentary.

His characters speak in Dickins own version of urban Australian poetry. He melds the suburban image with the exotic or the lyrical.

We meet a Zulu on Heidelberg Road; Mr. Richards, (David Pawsey) the grocer-butcher, quotes World War one poet, Wilfred Owen; the Bible and the Australia Council are in the one sentence; and Manet's Dejeuner Sur l'Herbe features during a picnic.

Dickins' writing obsesses about education, language, thought, politics, art and youth. He challenges our crumbling world and loss of faith and values. These young people are morally bankrupt, acquisitive and self-obsessed. Tyranny is a scathing attack on youth.

The set design (Jamie Clennett) of white painted junk clustered up the back walls is inventive.

The cast and director work courageously with this chaotic and intense script. The problem is that they do not seem to understand Dickins' style and are not quite in control of his language and intention.

The dialogue is complex, requiring clear articulation. At times, the actors are inaudible or incomprehensible. It also lacks his signature slapstick and satirical quality.

However, it is delightful to see a new Dickins with all its shambolic glory.

By Kate Herbert

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