Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Wednesday, 26 September 2012
Barassi – The Stage Show, Sept 26, 2012 ***
By Tee O'Neill, Jager Productions Athenaeum
Theatre, Sept 25 to 30, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sept 26, 2012
Stars: *** Review published in Herald Sun on Fri. Sept 28. KH
BARASSI IS A GOLDEN FOOTY ICON IN MELBOURNE, and Barassi – The Stage Show is a
tribute show that tracks his life in VFL and AFL football as both a young,
feisty player and an even tougher, volatile coach.
Director, Terence O’Connell, and playwright,
Tee O’Neill, create a cheerful piece of identification theatre that will appeal
to Aussie Rules footy fanatics who usually avoid theatre but who enjoy a laugh
and some reminiscing about the old VFL and its transformation into a national
It would be churlish to focus entirely
on the theatrical limitations of the script, because this is genuinely funny,
good-humoured, playful production with a clever, committed cast, including
former AFL footballer, Russell Robertson.
The play is book-ended with glimpses of
Barassi’s dad, Ron Sr., who we see in the early 1940s as a Melbourne Football
Club champion, as a young soldier who tragically dies in Libya and, in the
touching final scene, at his gravesite in Tobruk when Ron Jr. visits in 1984.
Footy supporters of all AFL clubs will
not be disappointed with this chronological, biographical storytelling that
explores Barassi’s successes and failures in football from the ‘40s to the
Die-hard fans will identify with the
highs of winning Grand Finals, the lows of losing by a point, cameo depictions
of footy greats, including Alex Jesaulenko and his unforgettable mark.
Two capable actors play Barassi, with
nuggetty, muscular Chris Asimos as the unpredictable, young footballer, and
Steve Bastoni portraying with vigour, the laser-beam focus, passion and
obsession of coach Barassi.
Matthew Parkinson captures the lanky,
laconic persona of Melbourne coach, Norm Smith, Barassi’s surrogate father,
Jane Clifton’s narrator, a terminally disgruntled Collingwood supporter,
provides footy humour and scene links, while Amanda LaBonte plays the women in
O’Connell, without introducing a
Sherrin football, cunningly incorporates footy with stylised movement,
projections of headlines and a chorus of footy fans and footballers (Robertson,
Richard Sutherland, Glenn Maynard, Bartholomew Walsh).
O’Neill’s dialogue is sometimes cheesy
and uncomfortably expository as it tries to jam too much factual information
A biography rarely has a clear dramatic
arc so the story bumps up and down, the structure of the play is clumsy,
covering too much ground, too many years and many unimportant details.
The script focusing on a shorter period
might provide further insight into Barassi as a man, his career, his iconic
status and his past.
However, the show hurls footy into the
theatre for those who are usually barracking from the Southern Stand