Managing Carmen

David Williamson’s new play about a cross-dressing footballer is crass, clunky and clichéd.
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Sometimes, opening night at the professional theatre is like a school show – lots of people laughing at their mates dressing up and doing funny moves and laughing loudly because they’ve been told it’s meant to be funny.

The opening night of David Williamson’s new play, Managing Carmen, was one such instance. This is no reflection on the quality of the funny moves on show. The inimitable John Batchelor, in a welcome return to the Brisbane stage, has moves to die for. The rest of the cast are pretty cool movers and shakers of booty too.

I’ll probably be a lone voice here, if the audience response last night is anything to go by. I did not enjoy this play until halfway through the second act, when its farcical nature became appropriate to the subject matter. It certainly includes lots of disguises and embarrassing situations, but the invitation to laugh at someone who is in pain, not because he is making a fool of himself, but simply because he occasionally needs to dress in women’s clothes, struck me as crass.

Wesley Enoch’s direction is nigh faultless, taking the material at face value and crafting every comic moment that could be wrought from Williamson’s clunky and clichéd script. Richard Roberts’ design is also clever and slick. Mini sets on a revolve keep the cast stumbling, dancing and bumping into the furniture at a breathless pace.

Tim Dashwood is impeccable as the hapless Brent, a football star with a secret desire to dress as a woman. He moves seamlessly, physically and vocally, between the athleticism of his inhibited male self and the stylish elegance and lightly melodic voice of his female alter ego. John Batchelor (as Rohan) and Anna McGahan (Clara) are deliciously outrageous as Brent’s manager and girlfriend respectively, with Greg McNeill (Max) and Claire Lovering (Jessica) clearly delineating their characters of sleazy sports writer and psychobabbling consultant with limited material.

Dealing with the discovery that one is a member of a socially derided minority is no laughing matter, but that doesn’t mean comedy can’t be used to reveal particular human flaws, and society’s hypocrisy. Managing Carmen is a lost opportunity, struggling to be a straight-forward farce when it could have been a more substantial comedy with farcical elements.

Rating: 2 ½ stars out of 5

Queensland Theatre Company & Black Swan State Theatre Company present
Managing Carmen
By David Williamson
Director: Wesley Enoch
Designer: Richard Roberts
Lighting Designer: Trent Suidgeest
Sound Designer: Tony Brumpton
Audio-Visual Designer: Declan McMonagle
Cast: Tim Dashwood, John Batchelor, Claire Lovering, Anna McGahan, Greg McNeill

Playhouse Theatre, QPAC
13 October – 4 November 4

Additional dates:
State Theatre Centre of WA
10 November – 2 December

Flloyd Kennedy
About the Author
Flloyd Kennedy is an Australian actor, writer, director, voice and acting coach. She was founding artistic director of Golden Age Theatre (Glasgow), and has published critiques of performance for The Stage & Television Today, The Herald, The Scotsman, The Daily Record and Paisley Gazette. Since returning to Brisbane she works with independent theatre and film companies, and has also lectured in voice at QUT, Uni of Otago (Dunedin NZ), Rutgers (NJ) and ASU (Phoenix AZ). Flloyd's private practice is Being in Voice, and she is artistic director of Thunder's Mouth Theatre. She blogs about all things voice and theatre at and