This Much Is True

This Much Is True
By Louis Nowra. Red Line Productions. Old Fitz Theatre (NSW). July 12 – August 12, 2017.

It’s taken a while but this is Louis Nowra’s final play in his loosely autobiographical trilogy, after Summer of the Aliens about a boyhood in a Melbourne housing commission flat and Cosi about directing Mozart in a mental asylum.

Here in the downstairs theatre of Sydney’s Old Fitz, we meet supposedly the same locals with whom Nowra has been drinking upstairs for the last decade.  In fact, Nowra spent the premiere of This Much Is True not with us but in the front bar in his usual place of inspiration.   

What he missed was a gloriously funny, unsentimental, deeply moving kaleidoscope of sharp characters surviving in the underbelly of the big city. 

Their stories may or may not be true, but this cast delivers them with such urgent attack, such unselfconscious candour and wit, we are compelled to believe.  This is two hours of theatre without a break – but without one dull moment.  This is Dylan Thomas in Woolloomooloo.

The play is loosely structured around incidents, outrageous and criminal, beyond the Old Fitz, but mostly the drama just washes through the front bar, as the beautifully articulated seasons shift outside.  

Lewis (Septimus Caton) is the observant writer unobtrusively guiding us into these realities.  Danny Adcock plays the army man fixer always optimistic about his fellows and Martin Jacobs the crazed backroom chemist often in trouble with the bikies; Justin Stewart Cotta is the imperious if aging drag star Venus while Joanna Downing is the young barmaid with dreams. 

Others are refugees from suburbia, like Ashley Lyons as a successful family man now riven by mental anguish, Robin Goldsworthy as a financial adviser on the run and Alan Dukes as a debt collector on hard times.

Their lives, vulnerabilities and resilience play out in Anna Gardiner’s smoky stained, cheaply panelled bar, lit moodily by Matt Cox, while Martelle Hunt’s costumes delight with their detail of character.  Director Toby Schmitz and assistant Andrew Henry elicit great imagination and vocal attack from this fabulous cast, who often also share an easy directness to the audience.  And while the humour is riotous, truth is never sacrificed.

It’s a theatrical and historic treat to see This Much Is True in the very place of its imagining, but this local gem will surely travel far.

Martin Portus 

Image: Septimus Caton in This Much Is True (c) John Marmaras

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