Holden Street Theatres, Thu 11 Oct.
The iconic The Graduate movie from 1967 was based on a novel written in 1963. This stage adaptation of the same story was written by Terry Johnson in the early 2000s. It essentially follows the same plot but comes with a few extra scenes.
Cued by the simple and effective device of a slide above the stage to tell us where the scene is set, all begins well enough. The young Benjamin Braddock is feeling sullen and a bit sorry for himself after returning home from college, and is no mood to greet his parents’ fawning friends. His father and close family friend Hal Robinson (Matt Byrne) are appropriately over the top as they bask in their reflected pride over the young graduate, but the now famous Mrs. Robinson we all know has other plans.
Perhaps a novelty at the time the cougar phenomenon is well established these days and holds no surprises, but it should, you would assume, rely on some obvious spark about Benjamin that Mrs. Robinson (Niki Martin) finds attractive. Benjamin is a fine enough young fellow, but hardly a catch. In fact Nathan Quadrio does a sterling job of getting us to like a basically indolent and unimaginative character whose only interest in life seems to be having sex.
In time Benjamin meets and falls in love with Elaine, the Robinsons’ daughter – another lovely enough young person but who, by her own mother’s admission, is lacking in depth. So we have two sweet average young people trying to work out if they love each other. Oh – and Elaine (Hannah Tulip) has to get over the small matter of Benjamin sleeping with her Mum.
It turns out that no one in the Robinson family feels loved, but a drunken rave between mother and daughter that ends up on the floor is an endearing encounter. The bar scene with an erotic dancer is also quite touching, but bit by bit things descend into farce. There’s a bizarre nod to the hippies’ fascination with Eastern mysticism, and things conclude with no one looking very impressive.
Quadrio’s performance as Benjamin Braddock is solid throughout, but anyone would struggle to play a role where it’s only the fact that he was seduced by an older woman that makes his character interesting. Tim Cousins as Benjamin’s father delivers some amusing moments born out of frustration as he sincerely tries to understand what is going on with his son.
The songs of Simon and Garfunkel filled the void during set changes and still resonate with a poignant purity, but overall it felt that this story belongs in its own time, and doesn’t travel that well across the intervening decades.
The Graduate continues Holden Street Theatres, Hindmarsh, at various times, until Sat 27 Oct.
Bookings at holdenstreettheatres.com or mattbrynemedia.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.