The foibles, corruption, brutality, and straight-out misanthropy, portrayed in 'The Removalists' prove to be timeless.
I was preparing for a period piece in 'The Removalists'. David Williamson's script was written in the 1970s, and it promised all the unpalatable behaviour which was overlooked then. I was anticipating an episode of 'Life on Mars', perhaps on a grand scale.
In the end, the foibles, corruption, brutality, and straight-out misanthropy, portrayed in 'The Removalists' prove to be timeless. I found them to be grating and anger-inducing in much the same way I imagine they might have been 38 years ago when the play was first staged. Moreover, director Wayne Blair avoids the temptation to make this production a 1970s retrospective. 'The Removalists' may have been written almost 40 years ago, but Blair makes it live immediately.
The play revolves around Sergeant Dan Simmonds, played by Danny Adcock, who is, by turns, unctuous, corrupt, and - ultimately - dangerous. Constable Neville Ross - played by Dale March - is Simmonds's understudy, new on the job. Kenny and Fiona Carter - an unhappily married couple - and Fiona's sister, Kate Mason - are three characters who find themselves pulled into Simmonds's orbit. Ashley Lyons and Eve Morey play the Carters, Sacha Horler plays Mason.
Alan Flower plays the eponymous removalist, who gets assigned to pick up the furniture at a Melbourne flat, and finds himself in the sharp-edged world of Simmonds and the Carters.
Kenny Carter's violence towards his wife, Fiona, begets Simmonds's own violence and the situation spirals downwards from there. The results are bitter for everyone - none of the characters escape the consequences.
Nigel Poulton and Jacob Nash deserve recognition - Poulton directed the fight scenes, which are critical scenes in the play, and Nash is the designer on this production.
As an audience member, I am always cautious about drama that shifts the most ugly human qualities to another era, even when it is as subtle as Wayne Blair's production of 'The Removalists'. Shifting era can let the audience off the hook, letting them reassure themselves that 'things aren't like that anymore'. But, of course, often that is not the case. Distance just makes it easier to look at ourselves" it doesn't necessarily make us different.
That's where this production of 'The Removalists' hardly shows its vintage.
The Removalists, Sydney Theatre Company, The Wharf, Sydney, till 29 March
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