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Photo by Brett Boardman

Is There Something Wrong With That Lady?

Griffin Theatre Company present, IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THAT LADY? Created and Performed by Debra Oswald, at the SBW Stables Theatre, Darlinghurst. 13th - 24th April 2021.

IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THAT LADY? is a single person, 90 minute  monologue. Debra Oswald an Australian writer of ‘plays’ for the Theatre, Television, Film and Radio. She is also a Novelist. Born in 1959.

In a funny and excruciatingly honest one-woman show, Debra tells stories about her neurotic childhood, clumsy romantic history, and the anxieties and joys of the writer’s life – all in the hope that the audience can help her work out that ever-important question: what comes next? … (from the publicity blurb).

This elder Australian writer appears on stage in a simple costume of warm Autumnal colours and takes quiet command of the space of the SBW Stables stage and looking at all of us in the full lighting of the auditorium engages us in a journey through the fantasies and realities of a career as an Australian artist.The lighting arranged by Ben Brockman is the other excellent performer – relatively subtle in influence.

Standing, sitting, wandering around the space, occasionally sipping from a glass of water Ms Oswald entrances you into hearing the incredible journey of her life, the private and the professional. From the hypochondriacal depths of fantasy fed by commercial television as a child – MARCUS WELBY MD – where every week, consequently, she was suffering from some different tragic incurable disease, to the naive pursuits of a romantic and sexual life at University, and her encouragement to consider the life of a writer as the path she should follow at the age of 17 by none other than one of her theatrical heroes : John Bell.

She reminds us of her successes: I claimed DAGS (1987), BANANAS IN PYJAMAS (1992), GARY’S HOUSE (1996) and OFFSPRING (2010 – 2013) as my conscious touch-points with her output. There is much more that has found a life. And during the night she physically produces a tonnage of script, laid out on the floor of the stage, commissioned but never produced – a weight of lifeless paper. She talks of work sent to producers, theatre and otherwise, of characters and stories conjured joyfully from her imagination provoked by her acute observation of the world about her that has never had a life beyond that conception – of work sent and never even acknowledged as received by the gate-keepers to production, a rudeness that is accepted as part of the business etiquette. Ms Oswald shows the tribulation and pain of her striving as an artist. It demonstrates for the audience the reality of the life of a writer, in which the pain of rejection is the most prominent sauce. It may, also, by plain thinking, and comparable referencing  present the general familiarity of any person who chooses the ARTS in any of its means of expression as a way of living. Rejection being the most common factor.

There is in the weaving employed by Ms Oswald, some moments of acute politics that protests, gently : e.g. one being of the obsession of our producers who are in pursuit of the emerging artist at the expense, the ignoring, of the experienced, the Elder of the Tribe, who knows that the wheel has been invented and knows how it is constructed and can be construed. Who actually can write plays and who have a track record of doing so. Elders who could, should, mentor the emerging youngster – you know like what used to happen in “the good old days”.

This night at the Griffin, sensibly Directed by Lee Lewis, is so pleasant that I buried my negative prejudice about one person performance. This work, led by a raconteur of such self-deprecating style, is full of seductive humour and the means to have us identify to a point of absolute comfort. We, happily recognising the events where her life and ours have crossed paths (e.g. MARCUS WELBY M.D.), but, as well, her showing us without rancour or angry judgement some of the injustices/outrages of her profession.

Do go. It is a charming opportunity to gather with like-minded people and warm up to some of the reasons that make life worth living and provides some direction as to where to place our own battle fronts with the Artists of our time – with the famous and the occasion famous and those artists that have had no fame (or living) at all, but could make no other choice of career, could not do anything else. Those storytellers who quietly bleed for us – take an artist such as Van Gogh as an instance of suffering.

Ms Oswald has woven a little triumph.