peteg's blog - noise - theatre - 2011 10 04 SummerOfTheSeventeenthDoll

Belvoir: Summer of the 17th Doll

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Apparently I haven't been to the theatre in more than a year, partly because (as far as I can tell) Belvoir has abolished their cheap Tuesdays at their downstairs theatre. The Doll was on upstairs, and I was fortunate enough not to have studied it at school.

Steve Le Marquand is Roo here, apparently just the big wooden lug the script calls for. Peodair told me that they named their youngest after Roo; Rufus though, not Reuben, with the desirable attribute of being big. OK then. His mate Barney is played by Dan Wyllie with an all-Australian greaser demeanour that puts my teeth on edge; hence he is probably perfect for it, height and all. Susie Porter is generally very good as the pivotal Olive, though Robyn Nevin dominates whenever she's on the set. Helen Thomson as Pearl does well in an unappealing stuffy north-shore sort of way, with the faux sensibility and propriety of a Hyacinth. Yael Stone is fantastic as the voluble "neice" Bubba, and TJ Power was fine in his last-minute call up as Johnnie Dowd. Neil Armfield has them all where he wants them.

The set is nicely done in a period sort of way, with the novelty of the window opening straight onto Belvoir Street.

The play itself (from 1955, or should that be 1977?) is an ode to a dead Australia if ever I saw one. The contemporary equivalent would have to be set in Perth, with Roo ending up broke by the rent on a one-bedder in Port Hedland after a blue in the pit. Barney would have kids in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory and what fun we could have riffing on the intervention. One of Barney's voting-age boys would be in Parliament, there'd be an awesome rant against the Family Court, and someone would have to be gay. The girls would be cutting cocaine for the blokes at the start, and probably work for a "Hell has Harbour Views" law firm rather than a local pub. In short, it would be so much more sophisticated and entirely banal. What would be as socially challenging now as liberated women looking for a good time (on their own terms) was then?

I have to say that it was worth forty dollars and beer money for theatre of this quality. I should go more often.