‘Life after George’ was written in 2000 by Melbourne born and educated Hannie Rayson. This significant playwright wrote the Australian Classic ‘Hotel Sorrento’ at the age of 33. Still young, Hannie has already gained an honorary doctorate from Monash University for her work with the theatre. Amongst her vast award collection, she has two Australian Writers' Guild Awards and three Helpmann Awards. Hannie is also the only playwright ever to be nominated for the Miles Franklin Award.
Producing a new outstanding play every two years, her name is always in the most respected writers’ list. Her 2005 play, ‘Two Brothers’ about the Australian asylum seeker policy, caused furore in political circles.
This well-crafted production is showing at the Melville Theatre, 391 Canning Highway, on the corner of Stock Road, Palmyra. All performances start at 8.00 pm, except the Sunday 16th matinee, which starts at 2.00 pm.
The stage is set with several very different venues and locations around the world.
Addressing the funeral congregation - the audience – an extremely sad, Duffy (Trevor Dhu) thanks us for coming today to pay our respects to his very good friend, Peter George (Jeff Hansen) who, sadly, was killed in a light aircraft accident. Duffy points out to us the women in Peter’s life.
His first wife, Beatrix (Joy Northover), now an artist, married Peter thirty years ago in England when he was a flower power anarchist, hating any kind of Capitalism or private enterprise. Peter went on to become a university history lecturer. The couple decided to move to Australia when he was offered a Professorship.
They had a daughter, Ana (Annie Blatchford) but soon after the birth, Professor George had an affair with a young student, Lindsay (Di Ryman), got divorced and married this manipulating and ambitious young lady.
Bored with teaching history, Peter took up flying as a hobby, being taught by Duffy. Losing his drive and enthusiasm for his profession, Lindsay is promoted over brilliant Peter, thus becoming the new Head of Department. She is then asked to set up a new section.
With very little to hold her in Melbourne, Beatrix returns to the UK, taking Ana with her. Now, left alone with the Lindsay, ‘the dominatrix’, Peter seeks out another, easier-going young lady, ex-student and now a publisher, Poppy Santini (Mellissa McBride) to love and cherish.
Peter, amazingly, seemed to get on perfectly well with all of his three wives and daughter, but was this bonding secure? What do they all really think of each other? Did they each mourn the same person, and what did he give to each of the relationships? What were the true circumstances behind the plane crash?
The storyline flashes back and forward over a thirty-year period. Because the actors have, without any costume change, to adjust age, mood and personality at a flick of a flood lamp, the demands on the cast were huge. For example, Lindsay was a young, sexy purring student one minute and a hard, uncaring Professor next (which Di performed very well). Director, Val Riches kept the cast moving slickly around the stage and locations.
The complex lighting design (Ian Black) worked wonderfully well as it guided the audience from one location to the next, and its demanding operation (Ian Black and Vanessa Jensen) had perfect timing. Some of the best lighting that I have seen at Melville. The ‘live’ piano music was convincing, however, the sound effect of the plane crashing was poorly edited and recorded, with not nearly enough volume or punch to be the central subject of the whole play.
The pale grey, surrounding drapes gave an excellent backing to the various sets, however they absorbed the cast’s delivery and at times the dialogue was a little hard to hear, which a shame, as the acting was excellent. Trevor’s enunciation was most easily heard. As this play is a Year 12 set book, it was good to see so many school students at the theatre, however, a disadvantage of an almost full house is that the large number of bodies also adsorbs the volume.
This is an intelligent play that takes a little following, but the rich character studies and the strong acting are most rewarding. If you lived in the student social world of the seventies, then this story will bring a few private smiles to your face.
A hard play to produce but admirably presented. Congratulations to all concerned.