Friday, 8 April 2005

Mannix by Rod Quantock, April 8, 2005

 Mannix by Rod Quantock  
 Kingston Arts Centre, April 8 to 10, 2005

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 8

Dr. Daniel Mannix was the controversial Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne from 1913 until his death at 99 years in 1963.

Mannix was an intelligent, fiercely independent and vocal Irishman, a spokesman for the underclass, the workers. His constituents were the Irish Catholics of Melbourne who, early in the 20th century, were still considered dangerous outcasts.

Rod Quantock uses as research for this one-man show, performed by Terence Donovan, the early period of Mannix's reign.

Donovan plays Mannix as well as the feisty Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, and several other characters of the period.

This intimate and small scale play begins with Donovan playing a 10-year-old naïve and poverty-stricken Irish Catholic boy who witnessed the arrival of Mannix in Melbourne in 1913.

Through they eyes of this child, we hear of Mannix's compassion, generosity and fortitude. The Doc, as he became known, tried to follow the motto he assumed on ordination as a Bishop: "All things to all men."

Quantock's script is a series of monologues direct to audience, recorded quotes from the Argus of the time and of Mannix's critics and some delightful Irish ballads sung live by Donovan in a warm and sweet voice

Donovan portrays the dignified Mannix at the pulpit and in the street. He rails against injustice and speaks out, to his detriment, against Hughes' planned referendum on Conscription during The Great War.

Mannix's efforts attracted enormous criticism and paranoia. He was called "belligerent" and "provocative" and then accused of being associated with "reckless extremists, pacifists and pro-Germans.".

 Mannix became the target of every bigot in the country - but he marched on relentlessly with his quest for fairness.

Donovan plays Mannix with warmth and his opponents with a gentle criticism. Although he was a little under-rehearsed on opening night, the show has legs.

Quantock wisely chose a short time span of Mannix's career on which to focus. The verbatim speeches and quotations are effective in telling his story and expanding our understanding of the man.

The show leaves us wanting more. In its next incarnation, the play could expand further on Mannix's dynamic and forthright personality, the characters around him and the view of the Australian press of this historic figure.

By Kate Herbert 

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