Wednesday, 5 March 2003

Inheritance by Hannie Rayson MTC,

Inheritance by Hannie Rayson 
Melbourne Theatre Company  
Playhouse, Arts Centre, March 5 to April 5, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Life on the land is difficult enough without adversity within a farming family.Hannie Rayson's play, Inheritance, depicts two families warring over a Mallee  property. 

The play is funny, distinctively Australian, with believable characters, emotional layering and a socio-political intention. "It engages with the political and ethical forest in which we lead our lives," to quote Rayson.

Inheritance is based on intensive research into farming communities in the Mallee. The density of the research is both the asset and burden of Rayson's script. On the positive side, family members of the Delaneys  and Hamiltons  are thoroughly credible Aussie battlers. Out of their mouths comes authentic, often hilarious, Australian vernacular.

On the negative side, the play becomes expository. The weight of the research causes mounds of information to be included in narrations and dialogue. That said, Inheritance is a fine fictional representation of a family in crisis.

Eighty year old sisters, Dibs Hamilton  (Monica Maughan ) and Girlie Delaney  (Lois Ramsay ) still live on their family farm. Dibs inherited it on a toss of a coin and her husband, Farley,  (Ronald Falk ) was mater of the land.

On their eightieth birthday, things begin to go awry. Who inherits the farm? This is evidently a burning issue in farming families. Secrecy, deception, self-interest, rights of ownership and an undisclosed will are fuel for an emotionally volatile battle to rival the Ancient Greeks.

Simon Phillips  direction is slick and lively on Shaun Gurton's design, reminiscent of a huge barn.  It is lit evocatively by Nick Schlieper.  and the religious rivalry is captured in Ian McDonald's  music.

Maughan effectively portrays both Dibs' warmth and her latent strength. As Girlie, Ramsay has the funniest lines and makes a meal of them. Falk plays Farley, the senile but still tyrannical old patriarch with sympathy.

As Lyle,  one of the second generation, Steve Bisley   captures the bluster, panic and idealism of the failed but dogged farmer. Wayne Blair  plays Nugget,  the adopted aboriginal son of Dibs and Farley, with compassion and intensity.

Geraldine Turner plays the dislikeable Maureen Delaney  with relish. Suffice to say Maureen is Pauline Hanson  revisited.
 ther recognisable types are city dwellers: the older gay son, (Rhys McConnochie ), the lefty daughter, (Julie Nihill ) and her teenage, vegan son, (Gareth Ellis )

The play is absorbing, funny and reveals issues of rural life we might never consider in our city abodes.

By Kate Herbert

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