'Bondi Dreaming' is back, this time at the Seymour Centre, bigger and – surprisingly – even better.
Bondi Dreaming: Seymour Centre
Blacktown to Bondi, by way of a Bali gaol cell. Well, you’d fire your travel agent, wouldn’t you? And if you’ve taken this trip before, as I have, take heart: the return ticket is every bit as enthralling as that first flight out.
When I reviewed Bondi Dreaming back in October last year, it was a small production in Newtown Theatre, and I went along at the last minute to cover for some other reviewer, who’d called in sick. I didn’t know anything about it and didn’t particularly want to go. And then, of course, it turned out to be a revelation, the best play I’d seen in years.
Now it’s back, this time at the Seymour Centre, bigger and – surprisingly – even better.
I’m dreading writing the synopsis though, and sneaking a quick peek at what I wrote last time (in the hopes of ‘lifting it’), it turns out I found it a tough ask back then, too:
‘Frankie, Charlie and Macca are young three mates from Blacktown who dreamed of something better. They wanted to live out those dreams – and so they will. Lying on the sand, they’ll continue to dream of something better as a nightmare unfolds around them…’
As I said back then: I know that’s vague. And yet I find myself running up against the same wall as last time: while I want to rave about this play, tell you all about it, so much of its appeal lies in the way you’re drawn into its characters dreams, completely trusting that they’re at a party drinking beers, say, while the walls of their cell tell us otherwise. But if I said it was about these guys at a party, or languishing in a Bali gaol, well, neither would really be entirely right. If for no other reason, that’s why you should make a point of seeing Bondi Dreaming: it exemplifies the transformative power of theatre, the reason why a play isn’t something that’s seen or heard, but experienced.
For this new production, writer/director Sam Atwell has reworked and improved his original script, more strongly defining the characters of Frankie and Charlie, played by the same dynamic duo of Toby Levins and Greg Hatton. ‘Dynamic’ is the word here: again, they manage to tease their performances through a range of wildly shifting emotions: tender, tragic, and grimly funny. If they weren’t totally convincing, the play wouldn’t work. The new addition to the cast is Marcel Bracks as Macca, a very difficult role in that he first appears halfway through and immediately has to find the rhythm of the other actors, while at the same time remaining off-beat, out of step with them. Not only does he manage this, he does it superbly.
Another new addition is Alon Ilsar as music/sound designer, who, like Josh Green before him, is as much a cast member as he is a part of the crew. His sounds cape washes in tides from foreground to background, heavy drama to light comedy, crashing drums to The Girl From Ipanema… Who could ask for anything more? Christopher Snape’s lighting makes great use of the setting, particularly with its dreamlike night sky, and the set itself… well. Apparently designer Tom Bannerman flew to Bali as part of his preparation, and with his set’s looming, precariously leaning walls and infernally smoking pit, I wonder if he didn’t get Dante to take him on a quick tour, too.
Blacktown to Bondi, Newtown Theatre to the Seymour Centre: some dreams work out, and they have – deservedly – for everyone involved with this production. For Frankie, Charlie and Macca, the nightmare continues. They’ll be the first to tell you: we don’t all get a second chance. Take yours and see this play; next time it’ll be playing at the Opera House, and you may not be able to afford a ticket.
Bondi Dreaming: Seymour Centre
By Sam Atwell
Venue: Seymour Centre, corner of City Road and Cleveland Street, Chippendale
Season: 16 September to 10 October 2009