A BOOZY, lusty evening could be a standard Friday night out – but it’s actually the core premise of Melville Theatre’s latest production, set against the backdrop of the 1969 Federal election.
Written by acclaimed Australian playwright David Williamson and directed by Jeff Hansen, Don’s Party explores relationships and middle-class morality in the late 1960s.
While the party of the play’s title is to celebrate a win by Gough Whitlam over John Gorton – which becomes less and less likely as the evening goes on – inhibitions (and clothes) soon fall to the floor as more and more alcohol is consumed.
First performed in 1971, it was made into a 1976 film starring Graham Kennedy, Graeme Blundell and Ray Barrett, directed by Bruce Beresford.
Hansen chose to direct Don’s Party because he wanted to stage something with popular appeal, after directing the critically-acclaimed and Finley Award-winning The Return, which did poorly at the theatre’s box office.
“Don's Party ticked all the boxes, being well-known, a great piece of Australian literature, and very funny,” he said.
“While the '69 federal election is the setting for Don's Party, it actually has very little to do with politics.
“A working knowledge of the political landscape at the end of the '60s is not a prerequisite to enjoying or understanding the play.
“While there are passing references to the progressing vote count and who may lose which seat, Don's Party is a play about relationships.
“The morals of the day might seem out of place in modern times but the central themes of mateship and relationships are timeless.”
Involved in theatre for the past 32 years, Hansen’s first role was in Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at high school and he’s been involved with Melville Theatre for the past 14 years in various capacities since first performing in Travelling North.
Also working with Stirling, Limelight and Old Mill Theatres, Hansen is Melville Theatre’s president and scored the Finley Award for best play, after directing The Return last year.
With Don’s Party, he said it was a challenge casting the six men but was pleasantly surprised with the quality of actors who auditioned.
“From a director’s point of view, having 11 people [six men, five women] on stage in a play poses certain problems, especially in this case,” Hansen said.
“There are large parts of the play when most, or all, the actors are on the stage, although they may not be involved immediately in the dialogue.
“The challenge is for them not to look like mannequins when they are not involved in the action.”
Don’s Party plays at 8pm, July 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16 with a 2pm matinee on July 3. Tickets are $17, $13 concession – book on (08) 9330 4565 or email [email protected]
Melville Theatre is on the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway, Palmyra, WA. More information is available at http://www.meltheco.org.au/.
don1: Phil Barnett, Jarrod Buttery, Jeffrey Watkins and Rod Short are bringing the David Williamson classic Don's Party to life this July (Picture: JEFF HANSEN)
don2.jpg: Murray Jackson is Mack in Don's Party this July. (Picture: JEFFREY WATKINS)
don3: Jarrod Buttery has the title role in Don's Party with Angela Johnson as his wife Kath. (Picture: JEFFREY WATKINS)
The Melville Theatre Company was the brainchild of David J. Burton who, in 1982, called a meeting for interested people in the community to form a theatre company in the Melville area.
As a result, the Melville Theatre Company was born. The newly formed company's first production was the farce, Not Now Darling. With its second production, The Sound of Music, the young company won the Finley Award for the Best Production of the Year in Community Theatre. Since then, actors and directors have consistently featured in the list of awards at the annual State Drama Festival.
Initially, performances were in the Melville Civic Centre but, since 1987, the venue has been the Roy Edinger Centre, on the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway, Palmyra.
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