Arts Theatre, Sat Jun 21
In presenting Tracy Lett’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, August: Osage County, director David Sinclair has crafted a finely tuned and immensely enjoyable piece of theatre for Adelaide audiences. Set in Oklahoma, August: Osage County chronicles the inevitable implosion of the Westons – a family group racked and wrecked by drugs, alcohol, infidelity, lies, deceit, and more – as they reunite after the suicide of their patriarch, Beverly Weston. Yet such dark themes are carried through the narrative by a great deal of humour (black, obviously). These laugh-out-loud moments reflect magnificent writing in the first instance however relied on great comic timing and delivery to do justice to the clever, cutting wit that defines this show.
The cast were all strong in their roles although Nikki Fort shone as pill popping matriarch Violet Weston – her cancerous mouth dripping with a vitriol that stunned the audience time and again. The physicality of Fort’s portrayal of her character’s decay was especially mesmerising. Helen Geoffreys was also superb as eldest daughter Barbara – herself capable of similar levels of venom and owning some of the best lines in the play. Geoffreys was adept in portraying this strong, often spiteful character whilst still keeping the audience’s sympathies for her crumbling existence. Sue Wylie was extraordinary as the overbearing Aunt Mattie-Fay, her character working beautifully with hen-pecked husband Charlie, played with calm and compassion by Tom Carney. Together they provided much of the comedy in the show and were appreciated by the audience for that alone.
The rest of the cast were enjoyable to watch in their roles – the calibre of actors on this production is very high – all worked together to construct a story that the audience could become ‘lost’ within – whether they wanted to or not. The family dinner scene after the funeral was a carefully choreographed train wreck, the actors working as an ensemble to simultaneously lay down and strip back the years of emotional turmoil, lies and deceptions that ultimately destroy pretty much everyone in sight.
Clever staging and lighting saw the action moving generally seamlessly through various ‘rooms’ of the Weston home, itself a character with its drab, uninspired interior and cardboard covered windows that keep those ‘secrets’ trapped within. The porch area needed better definition as transition was less successful here, but the overall effect worked well and scene changes were effective and unobtrusive as a result.
Adelaide Repertory Theatre’s August: Osage County is a fine example of amateur local theatre done in the most professional of ways. Cast and crew’s commitment to providing a quality theatre experience was clearly obvious in a play that screams to be taken seriously and last night’s audience was simultaneously repelled and mesmerised by the story and the performances
by Rosie van Heerde
August: Osage County continues at Arts Theatre until Sat Jun 28.