Review By Michelle Fisher
David Williamson’s final play Crunch Time is a drama about family, relationships, unresolved family dynamics and the very current issues surrounding assisted dying.
With these issues and a line-up of impressive names in the industry including John Wood and Diane Craig, David Williamson as the playwright and Mark Kilmurry as director, this play had plenty of promise and opening night at the Ensemble was filled with loads of good will towards Williamson and his final piece.
As a whole unfortunately the production did not live up to the expectations one has of one of the most reputable and published Australian playwrights. The story was predictable, the dialogue devoid of moments of light and shade and even in the hands of these capable actors the plot underwhelming. None of this is to say that this was a night lacking in entertainment. The show was well peppered with both cute and clever contemporary references and as an audience, we certainly had some laughs.
As the “typical “ Aussie dad, Steve, John Wood is a no hugging, straight shooting, no emotion-showing father who is obsessed with his socially gifted and able sportsman son Jimmy, played by Matt Minto. This commitment to the father/son bond comes at the clear detriment of his other son, Luke, played by Gut Edmonds. A nerdy, straight A student with little to no sporting ability, Luke is relegated to a lifetime of resentment at being made to consistently feel second best and even unloved by his own father.
Unsurprisingly, with these clear divides well established early in the piece, the father and son are estranged and it takes the literal fear of death in Steve's cancer diagnosis to force any attempt at reunion. It is within this reunion, wherein Luke capitulates and tries to hash out his relationship with his father before time runs out, that perhaps one of the most impassioned scenes of Williamson's play takes place. It is as if you can feel the breath of every parent in the audience being sucker-punched out of them as Steve asks of Luke how he would rank his father's love for himself on a scale of 1-10. 'Hide your favourites' be damned. This scene is no holds back.
But as for conflict or unpredictability, this is about it. Unfortunately, although contemporary in references, the play seems not to have much pressing it has to say.
The scenery by Lauren Peters is unchanging throughout - an ordinary world for an ordinary family. Mark Kilmurry's familiarity with the space is here of huge advantage as he manages to navigate this world with his cast and direct efficient movement through this space that still indicates we have moved from one house to another despite the lack of change in scenery. Whilst aesthetically not particularly stimulating for the duration of the piece, the scenery was used well to tell the story.
The crux of the story seems to centre around Steve's need for help from his sons in assisting him to die - consequences be damned. He seems not to care about the fact that his favourite son may face serious jail time for importing or administering the drug. One has to question whether this is desperate or selfish or sightless and depending on your answer to this will change your personal outcome of the character and ultimately your night at the theatre as a whole.
Ultimately, it felt like this play was filled with missed opportunities that Williamson's older works never had - this play lacked a plot twist of any description and left the story ambling along predictably because of it.
Nonetheless, the opening night audience couldn't have been more appreciative of Williamson. A true theatre legend of our time!
Image Credit: Prudence Upton
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.