Harriet Dyer and Dash Kruck as Patty and Danny: Photo by Rob Maccoll
By Matthew Ryan
Directed by Iain Sinclair
Queensland Theatre Company
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season April 11- May 2. Running time is two hours fifteen minutes including interval. Bookings: QTIX 136 246 or www.qpac.com.au
I have to admit to being a Matthew Ryan fan. I have seen all of his play and enjoyed every one, starting with Dance of Jeremiah back in 2005.
Brisbane proved to be no exception. It has a great script, wonderful characters, and a top class cast that gave the audience a splendid night out. The play has great humour and an amazing warmth too as the action zigzagged from family crises to wartime rumours and loss.
Brisbane is a big play with lots of characters and a cast of nine; it is also big in scope and entertainment, filled with hoots of laughter, a good dose of nostalgia and drama as we follow the story of the City and some of its citizens in 1942 as they awaited the anticipated Japanese invasion.
The story is told through the eyes of Danny Fisher, fourteen years old and a boy moving from innocent adolescence to naive manhood. Danny is a compulsive writer of stories who narrates the events, personal, family, local, national, and international through his own imagination. He even brings American General McArthur and General John Monash, Aussie hero of World War I into the mix in lovely comic caricatures of the two war leaders. They were played, among many other roles by Matthew Becker and Hugh Parker.
There is a beautiful scene between the two men as they compare the Aussie and the US soldiers and it ends with a tirade from Monash and one of the funniest lines in the play.
We witness the war and the American invasion of Brisbane through Danny’s eyes; the resentment held by the poorly paid diggers against the swish uniformed rich guys from the US who stole all the girls with their unlimited supplies of chocolate and nylons, which led to the infamous Battle of Brisbane.
Danny is a whale of a part and was brilliantly performed by Dash Kruck. I always feel that the most difficult role to play as an adult male is that of a teenage boy. It is so easy to make the character sound retarded, but Kruck mastered the role completely and produced the best performance of his career so far. He played the oft-bullied dreamer who escaped into his own world while being punched and kicked by the bully boys. He learned how to start to fly a plane, the Kittyhawk that was flown by his dead brother, without leaving the ground and befriends an American airman after breaking into the US Air Force base.
He was helped along in his adventures by a deliciously cheeky school friend Patty, a girl called, as they would in those days, a cripple, because she had because she had one leg shorter than the other and wore special shoes and a leg brace.
I just loved this feisty little character, played by Harriet Dyer. She accepted that she was different but outwardly didn’t give a damn as she fought against the boys, using her steel framed leg as a weapon in some hilarious scenes. She acted with great strength and proved to be a wonderful foil for Dash Kruck. They were comedy magic together.
In the Fisher family we had Conrad Coleby as Danny’s much doted on big brother and Hayden Spencer doing his usual great job as the ocker father. Veronica Neave plays Annie Fisher, the picture perfect 1940s wife who loses her mind with grief when her son is killed in a Japanese attack on Darwin.
Lucy Goleby is excellent too as Rose, Frank’s girlfriend, who mourns him too but falls for lookalike Yank Andy West, also played by Conrad Coleby. Finishing up the cast as an ensemble member was Danny Murphy. He played several odd-bod characters too and was so well disguised he was never recognised, which is a great accolade for any actor.
But it was not just the characters and the acting; the production was skilfully put together with a brilliant two storey set designed by Stephen Curtis and amazing lighting from David Walters that created flying planes in shadow among other fabulous effects. So too the sound design from Guy Webster.
It is a sprawling looks at a time and a place that is sheer entertainment from beginning to end.
And at the after show party .... Pictures by Deanne Scott