This Much is True picks up the story of Louis Nowra’s semi-autobiographical Lewis and is set when he is older, between marriages and has discovered The Rising Sun pub (actually The Old Fitz). Very meta, a play about a pub in the pub where it all began, the play is a kind of Antipodean ‘Cheers’, where everybody knows your name, but darker and much funnier.
I can’t help but wonder if when Louis Nowra first arrived in Sydney, older and similar critical drinkers like Frank Moorhouse thought: ‘Oh no, there’s a new kid in town’. Mind you by the time Lewis was mingling with the assorted barflies in Woolloomooloo, Moorhouse had graduated from downing beers with the socialists in Balmain to drinking martinis at the Royal Automobile Club. I also wonder if Moorhouse and Nowra ever crossed paths – it seems highly likely, Sydney’s bohemian enclaves are small. Though the violent and depressive nature of Lewis’ newfound friends may have caused Frank to choke on his pimento-stuffed olive.
Why all this incidental rambling about Frank Moorhouse? Nowra’s characters are reminiscent of the kind of eccentrics who feature in the fiction and drama of writers and erstwhile libertarians over a certain age. This is the third installment of Lewis, previously seen in Nowra’s earlier drama: Summer of the Aliens and Cosi. Lewis (Septimus Caton) is stopping in the historic Rising Sun pub for a spell to work on his writing. You have to be a keen observer to be a writer, so Lewis enjoys a voyeuristic bevvy or two while soaking up the local atmosphere (soak being the operative word).
The assorted characters are a disparate bunch: Clarry (Martin Jacobs) the chemist who specialises in powder (nose candy that is), Venus (Justin Stewart Cotta) a scathing and fashion-forward female impersonator, Rhys (Robin Goldsworthy) is an investment advisor, Malcolm (Alan Dukes) the debt collector and Wesley (Ash Lyons) a suburbanite who tires of the corporate world and hangs up his suit. Cass (Danny Adcock) is the guy who has had about a dozen lives and has seen and done it all and keeps a protective eye on them all. Gretel (Joanna Downing) is the bar maid who dispenses the drinks with the air of a den mother in training.
There were several long scenes that delved into each character’s life, Alan Dukes plays Malcolm’s transformation at the end brilliantly: he is eerily calm as he plans to dispense rough justice to one of the group who has betrayed several of them. His accent becomes less refined and his true self is exposed as he prepares for brutal action.
This Much is True is like the city that it was conceived in: there is something for everyone here. Nowra’s characters have a distinct and refreshing lack of grating pretension about them, which is typical of Nowra himself and makes his theatre (both old and new works) immensely enjoyable.
Director Toby Schmitz and assistant director Andrew Henry know how to entertain and also how to draw amazing performances from the cast. On a bum note, I couldn’t help but thinking that happiness to the blokes seems to be drinking with a bunch of other blokes, with only one women present (serving them of course) two if you count Venus. One other bum note (literally) the show exceeded the 90 minutes it is advertised as and the seating in the theatre is way too uncomfortable for that long with no break. Still -a fun night of theatre with great work by all of the cast and crew.
This Much is True is on until 12 August, for more information and tickets see: https://www.redlineproductions.com.au/this-much-is-true/
Featuring: Danny Adcock, Septimus Caton, Justin Stewart Cotta, Joanna Downing, Alan Dukes, Robin Goldsworthy, Martin Jacobs and Ashley Lyons.
Creative/TechTeam: Louis Nowra (writer),Toby Schmitz (director), Andrew Henry (assistant director), Anna Gardiner (set design), Matt Cox (lighting), Martelle Hunt (costumes), Jed Silver (sound design) Bronte Axam (stage management) and photography by John Marmaras.