If you were entirely unaware of the play Wit, by American playwright Margaret Edson, you could be forgiven for believing the play was not twenty years old. The issues and writing stand the test of time well, making this Clock and Spiel Production memorable.

Cheryl Ward plays Vivian Bearing, an academic  who has at the play’s start been diagnosed with stage four metastatic ovarian cancer. She wryly notes to herself that there is no stage five. Her oncologist wants to start her on an experimental and aggressive treatment that leaves her depleted. We are told by Ward that Vivian’s story does not have a happy end.

Vivian’s story is told in flashbacks and she travels back in time to reveal her first engagements with language and her subsequent love of language. She becomes spellbound as a literature student by the metaphysical poetry of John Donne, and her love affair with his work sustains her. The wit is clear and abundant when she is rebuked by a senior professor as to the correct punctuation in her favourite sonnet: Death Be Not Proud. This very fitting sonnet is referenced throughout to good effect as Vivian lies dying. 

Cheryl Ward as Vivian is superb. She has an arrogant countenance that is belied by her physical appearance – barefoot and in hospital gown throughout. While she is laid low by the disease, however, she comes to realise that she would prefer some small kindness from the attending doctors rather than rote intellectualism. In the end it is nurse Susie (Hailey McQueen) who provides the kindness and humanity that brings some small comfort to Vivian. McQueen is strict but kind as the compassionate nurse.

Director Helen Tonkin takes the audience through the last stages of Vivian’s life with great attention to vivid detail while the cast are equally up to the task providing great support in Vivian’s last days. 

Wit is on until 26 Oct, for more information and tickets see: https://www.seymourcentre.com/events/event/wit/

Director: Helen Tonkin

Featuring: Matt Abotomey, Nyssa Hamilton, Chantelle Jamieson, Jan Langford-Penny, Yannick Lawry, Hailey McQueen, Shan-Ree Tan and Cheryl Ward

Above image by Alison Lee Rubie 


This Month in Sydney

8 - 26 January

Sydney Festival

Sydney – various

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Every January, Sydney Festival starts the new year with a bang, transforming the city with a bold cultural celebration based on critical ideas and cutting-edge art and performance.

More than any other cultural event, Sydney Festival defines Sydney’s personality. For over four decades we have presented international artists who guarantee headlines, and whose presence in Sydney adds to the Festival’s buzz and prestige, including names like Björk, Brian Wilson, Grace Jones, Manu Chao, Elvis Costello, AR Rahman, Cate Blanchett, Ralph Fiennes, Robert Lepage, The Flaming Lips, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Peter Sellars, Sir Ian McKellen and David Byrne & St. Vincent. Some of the world’s great companies – Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance, Cheek by Jowl, Gate Theatre and The Wooster Group to name only a few – also share the Festival with the most exciting artists and companies in Australia.

Sydney Festival’s audacious contemporary programming positions it at the forefront of arts practice in Australia and up there as one of the most wonderful festivals in the world. (from Sydney Festival website)