Hannie Rayson's confusing new play is a perfect example of great idea, shame about the script. Opening at the funeral of one Professor George (an excellently cast Stephen Dillane) the play traces the way academia has changed from promoting the values of a classical education to market led, commercially orientated institutions of the present day, acutely aware of economic uncertainty.
Prof. George is a charismatic English professor teaching at Melbourne University whose chaotic private life mirrors the liberal sweep of his ideas. His three wives - and daughter- look back at the defining moments of George's life and in doing so we're clearly meant to see how academia itself has fundamentally changed since the Seventies.
On the plus side, it's great to see a play bravely tackling big issues and many of the points championed during the course of this play make sound sense.
Having someone of Dillane's calibre is a godsend for the role of George as he has the capacity to persuade, even in a vehicle as generally unconvincing as this. The inherent problem here lies in the fact that it always feels like a dramatic soapbox rather than an engrossing play and this is a fundamental flaw, alienating much potential sympathy from the audience.
There are a few moments that certainly work effectively and Cheryl Campbell is likeable as George's first wife Bea, but really the play needs restructuring in order to be truly successful.
This is what the popular press had to say: CHARLES SPENCER FOR THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "It is a special pleasure to welcome Hannie Rayson's intelligent, original and touching drama into the West End." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "Excellently directed....good performances ..... Rayson may have tried to cram too much in, but her play bursts with the vitality that is a hallmark of Australian drama." JONATHAN MYERSON for THE INDEPENDENT says, "This is the sort of theatre the cranially endowed have long been praying for", NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Dillane's unlovely George, purring with narcissistic conceit, points out this flawed but thoughtful play's warning about public heroes who are destructive forces at home. "
Links to full reviews from newspapers...