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A Life In The Theatre

Photography by Helen White

Darlinghurst Theatre Company present, A LIFE IN THE THEATRE, by David Mamet, at the Eternity Theatre, Burton St, Darlinghurst, 4 Nov-4 Dec.

A LIFE IN THE THEATRE, by David Mamet, is an early play, 1977 and, considerably, out of the usual area and style of his more well known genre – of the ‘Mamet-speak’ with macho, foulmouthed men squabbling over the way to make money, epitomised in his famous Pulitzer Prize winning, GLENGARRY GLENN ROSS, of 1984, his Chicago real estate play.

A LIFE IN THE THEATRE was written as a paean to his short-lived days as a young actor in a repertory company, perhaps. Two actors, one old and experienced, Robert (John Gaden), and one young and new to the ‘business’, John (Akos Armont), in some 18 short scenes, both back stage and sometimes on, chart the journeys of the professional actor, one trailing off in his ‘blaze’, the other, at the start of his ‘blaze’. The New Yorker declared when the play was first shown:

Mr Mamet has written – in gentle ridicule; in jokes, broad and tiny;and in comedy, high and low – a love letter to the theatre.

That is what this production emanates. It is in the writing – the source of it all – and in the sensibility that the actors at the Eternity Theatre bring lovingly to the performance under the sentimental but savvy, romantic guidance of Director, Helen Dallimore. It is a lovely time in the theatre, especially, if you know of it – one of the ‘luvvies’ – and the rapport between Mr Gaden and Mr Armont is palpable – they appear to relish each others company with great regard. Design is by Hugh O’Connor (the costume needs are many!), Lighting is by Christopher Page and there is a rather charming and clever Sound Design by Jeremy Silver, that is a very successful cover (distraction) during the many costume changes for the actors that we get to view – ahh, the hectic life in the theatre. (Special note should be made of the contribution that Sunil Chandra, as Assistant Stage Manager, makes to the smooth running of the many costume and prop changes during this very busy show.)

A LIFE IN THE THEATRE, as we aforementioned, probably, had its genesis in Mr Mamet’s experience as a young actor, just as GLENGARRY GLENN ROSS, probably, had its origins in his brief ‘career’, as a youngster, in a Real Estate office. I would wish that this ‘memory’ hagiographic was a little more acerbic – ALL ABOUT EVE, like – and with the verbal dexterity and more realistic toughness of GLENGARRY. Some others of us, on the other hand, may be grateful that it is what it is. Really grateful.

P.S. Watching Mr Gaden in this work set in a theatre, one was taken back to when he and others, in a “Golden Age” at the Old Tote Theatre Company, was part of George Oglivie’s production of Arthur ‘Wing’ Pinero’s love letter to the theatre known as TRELAWNY OF THE ‘WELLS’. It has a large cast and not likely to be revived, although, it should be, with the right Director – I stress, the right Director! It is interesting to note that Patrick Marber – he, of CLOSER fame – has adapted TRELAWNY for the Donmar Warehouse as recently as 2013. It Directed by Joe Wright – he of the films ATONEMENT and the wonderful ANNA KARENINA. Some thought he was not the right Director for the production. One must be careful, mustn’t one, for what one wishes for, for nostalgia’s sake. I am still recovering from the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of A FLEA IN HER EAR.

N.B. There was no biographical notes about the author of the play. I find it alarming the originator of all this work, THE WRITER, is not properly acknowledged. Director, Actors, Designers and Crew, ALL, but not the Writer.