Posts filed under ‘Play’


 We had a lot of fun doing a read through of this play at bookgroup. Reading it aloud to each other, with everyone taking a character, was such a different experience from reading it alone as a book. It was quite a revelation. The characters were more alive, they were funnier, the whole thing was a much more vibrant experience.

The book is a short play based on the real life character of tilly devine (see backstory and pics), a famous female underworld figure from the 30s to the 60s in sydney. Apparently Peter Kenna wrote, the “Slaughter of St Theresa’s day” in the front room of pete’s house. so obviously bookgroup was held there, which added to the appeal.

With the title and the subject matter i was expecting the usual collection of stuff about snappy, suits, sly grog and brothels, as portrayed in the recent TV series that dramatised her life. Surprisingly the story is actually more a study of a dysfunctional family. It takes place over one 24 hour period when the tilly character’s daughter arrives home from boarding school for her mum’s annual st theresa’s day party. unfortunately a young ‘jack the lad’ type character, recently out of jail and completely unreformed, also arrives. things go downhill from there.

However, the violence isn’t portrayed and its not at all clear that the deaths and so on are linked to gangland turf wars, or dodgy deals gone wrong. The play turns out not to be about any of that. It is much more about what it was like to live in a community of very impulsive, honour obsessed, irish descended catholics in mid 20th century sydney.

It felt like a window into a personality type, and a culture, that we middle class 21st century sydney bookgrouper’s dont see much any more, but haven’t quite forgotten. Perhaps it is also a window into the mindset that is still created today in males from some cultures, where honour and impulsiveness are still valued more highly than control and moderation and tolerance.


February 16, 2013 at 6:50 am Leave a comment


Arcadia by Tom Stoppard gave us a beautiful evening. It was a truly arcadian occasion at Arcadia Road. Mountains of food, all delicious, especially the cajun chicken, and gentle but passionate conversation, that roamed across the mandlebrot set, utopia and academic jealousy, but somehow always seemed to come back to the play.

The book is a famous play by one of the worlds most famous living playwrights (shakespeare in love, rosencrantz and gildenstern). Its written in 1993. its set in an english manor house in two times. 1809, as the enlightenment is unfortunately giving way to the dreaded romantics, and the present day (1993), when, in many academic circles at least, reason has given way to the dreaded post-modernists.

In 1809 the household tutor, septimus hodge, is exchanging very insightful witticisms about maths, sex and byron with teenage genius tomasina, whilst supposedly teaching her, and at the same time sleeping with all the women in the house.

In 1993, the son of the household and visiting young academic hannah, are engaged in much the same witticisms, on the same subjects, whilst heaping scorn on wannabe celebrity academic bernard, who is trying to make his name from an expose on byron.

Luckily, one bookgrouper had worked on the sydney production of the play, and another had seen both the sydney and london productions,and researched the whole issue of utopia/arcadia. so we were well armed to analyse the play, which we did, but mostly we just really enjoyed it.

The lively, good natured intellectualism, and curiosity, of the play sat well with bookgroupers. The sexy irreverence of septimus and hannah was as familiar to bookgroupers as the pretentious over-reaching competitiveness of bernard. Most of all the audacity of deliberately constructing a ruin in your back garden and stocking it with a real live (pretend) hermit, in order to achieve the romantic ideal of authenticity, was strikingly reminiscent of sydney-siders never-ending search for so-called authenticity in the form of ever more exotic and bizarre cuisine, music and holiday destinations.

in the end i really enjoyed reading the play, but i absolutely loved the bookgroup evening that we created, based on the play

October 10, 2010 at 11:09 am 1 comment

Mr Melancholy

This meeting was an exciting departure as we read the play ‘mr melancholy’. It is an unpublished play about a group of three very strange self proclaimed hermits living in a lighthouse. Their life is disturbed when a circus clown in a suitcase is washed ashore by a storm. Leanne sent us our scripts and chose our parts, and we ‘performed’ at the meeting.

Bill Collins (veteran Australian reviewer of vintage Hollywood movies) was apparently watching our performance of mr melancholy through a hole in the fence and he provided the following review

‘it was a stunning ensemble performance of mr melancholy including two revolutionary devices for the theatre – having no audience, and entirely changing the cast each scene.

both casts were superb, everyone managed to bring great stage presence, power and emotion to their performances despite, or possibly because, they were wearing clown hats and noses, and of course the direction was first class from the experienced leading Sydney theatre identity ms hillman’.

Thanks Bill

I thought the discussion was very interesting also, touching on friendships, power in relationships, fear, and the ideas of isolation, routine and inertia, not to mention the comparative severity of sins of omission V sins of commission.

I was a little disappointed there was no pirate in it so we couldn’t go around saying ‘arrh swab the decks ya salty dogs’. Although I guess a melancholy pirate wouldn’t do that. He would just slowly drag his peg leg around in a desultory fashion, occaionally looking up at his silent and moody parrot and saying to the crew ‘oh don’t worry about the decks, i can’t be bothered, just do whatever it is that salty dogs do’

October 23, 2005 at 7:11 am Leave a comment


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