Influence is the latest – and possibly the final work – from Australian playwright, David Williamson.
The last Williamson play I’d seen was Birthrights in June 2003 which was concerned a family – a fairly independent mother and her two daughters – and dealt with the decision of one daughter to bear a child for her sister and the complications that result from that as the child gets older and as the one who bore the child finds herself unable to have her own children.
But as much as I enjoyed Birthrights and a number of other Williamson plays I’ve seen over the years, I thought this was lacking… lacking in drama.
The plotline concerns a mythical Sydney talkback radio announcer – combining elements of the life stories of Stan Zemanski, Alan Jones and Mike Carlton – and the revelation his father had been a war criminal. But as dramatic as that sounds, it was neither touching nor dramatic. I didn’t especially like the characters, I didn’t gain any insight – really – into their lives, and the play didn’t even come to a dramatic end. In fact, I can’t remember how the play ended which is obviously a problem.
What I enjoyed, however, was what happened afterwards. As David Williamson has been the country’s best known and most successful playwright for more than thirty years, news that this may have been his final dramatic work for the stage is significant. Williamson has had heart problems and has decided to concentrate on film work which is far less demanding. And so at the end of the opening night premiere of his thirty-fifth play, some of Australia’s leading theatrical people – Robin Nevin, John Bell etc – stood before us paying tribute to Williamson both as a person and as a playwright. Significantly, I thought, no one dwelled for a long period on this play, preferring instead to talk about work such as “The Club” and “The Removalists” which were plays that were talked about, which really set the world on fire.
In stark contrast this play was a series of conversation with no real conclusion, and no real sense of drama. It never touched me because I don’t think it dealt with anything real. The actors were good, but that was about it, really.
Regrettably only two Sydney commercial radio announcers – Mike Carleton and John Stanley who are both terrifically nice people – were in attendance. Laws, Jones and Zemansky were nowhere to be seen.