Winter’s Discontent

Although I really liked this play, my friend, Colin hated it. Really hated it. And not just in an indifferent kind way, but in a seething kind of hatred. Although Colin has spent most of his life working in the theatre, he said the kind of sentiments expressed in this play, the self absorption in particular of actors, explains why he no longer works in the theatre, though he remains an active theatre-goer.

The one act play, which opened tonight at the Ensemble Theatre in Sydney, features a middle-aged actor, Robert Wintor, sitting in the dressing room, applying makeup and reflecting back on his life work. Clearly Robert Winter is an AVERAGE actor who has never achieved greatness. Although, he concedes that he’s done advertisements and voice-overs to pay the bills, he thinks a little above his peers because he questions the value of those “in between jobs” and he thinks his peers don’t. He concedes, however, the selfishness of his career and the impact it’s had on his family and, in particular, his son.

Over the course of 80 minutes the actor offers what often borders on a diatribe about modern life, including the use of mobile phones and about the government funding of theatre. I think most of us who have lived alone at some point in their life have found themselves looking in the mirror, talking to themselves, reflecting on their lives, what they have and have not achieved. That was, I think, a strength of this play… the reality of it all… as I’ve found myself in the same self-indulgent and maudlin state. I sometimes wondered if the play was written just by recording the late night conversation of a bitter and twisted actor. But for Colin that was a weakness. Who cares? Does it really matter if an actor is unhappy with his life choices? It’s life… get over it!

Although I enjoyed it, there were also some aspects of the play which I thought were pretty predictable. In particular, I was unimpressed with the dramatic device underpinning the play, which was the suicide of the character’s son. I just didn’t believe this and I wasn’t moved by it. Actually, I don’t really understand why it was included, except perhaps to give the play some meaning beyond the diatribe. I also was a little concerned by the use of “off stage” voices, which I thought sometimes bordered on the cliched.

Contrasting this was the performance of William Zappa which I thought was bloody terrific. Although Colin reflected, “he’s a much better actor than we saw tonight”, the audience really enjoyed his performance. He spoke honestly and naturally, in my view, and the audience seemed to agree with the applause.

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