Travelling North, one of David Williamson’s best works – from his so-called ‘golden period’ – is a very funny play, but it is definitely starting to feel dated. A sun-dappled sea change is the dream of many Aussies, but as a dramatic device, it is old hat. The not-so-young and in love Frank and Frances face disapproval from her daughters when they leave Melbourne for the sunny north, especially when Frank’s health becomes an issue.
The character Frank is almost always played as a lovable curmudgeon, this time by Dave Kirkham. He does a valiant job as the fiercely intelligent but physically limited Frank, who no sooner moves to the warmer north when his heart begins to fail. Cracks begin to appear in his relationship with Frances, she retorts in one exchange: ‘You are a rude, despotic, arrogant old bully…’ Harsh, but fair, as in their isolation Frank becomes very dependent on the normally placid Frances.
There is a lot of heart in this production, but performances were not nuanced enough and remained one dimensional throughout. A sparse set also contributed to a distinctly flat production, that couldn’t be saved in spite of the witty dialogue. Set design is troublesome in this play, as the action is continually moving in short scenes that take us from Melbourne to northern NSW to Sydney, which presents logistical challenges for the set. Visually this story works better in film, especially if acting is lacklustre and cannot transcend the set limitations.
Travelling North is on until 24 March, for tickets and more information see: http://www.genesiantheatre.com.au/index.php?mode=view
Featuring: David Kirkham, Jane Thorpe, Megan Shooter, Lauren Birdsall, Courtney Fleming, Peter Irving Smith and Sandra Bass.
Creative/Tech Team: David Williamson (writer), Sahn Millington (director, set desgin), Carlin Hurdis (assistant director), Debbie Smith (set design), Catriona McCabe (costume design), Marty Gallagher (lighting design), Mehran Mortezaei (sound design), Debbie Smith & Roger Gimblett (production manager), Susan Carveth (costume consultant), Michael Schell (lighting consultant), Debbie Smith, Paul Gilbert, Michael Denglar &Company (set construction), Anothony Burns, Homepix (photography), PAtrick Magee, Tom Massey (graphic design), Shane Bates (ticketing), Hannah Dunwell (stage manager) and Janina Olmos-New (lighting & sound operation).