When Dad Married Fury

When Dad Married Fury
By David Williamson. Ensemble Theatre, Sydney. Director: Sandra Bates. 9 May – 16 June, 2012. Additional Performances at the Theatre Royal, Sydney on June 22 & 23.

With three major productions to his name, David Williamson is the Ensemble’s house dramatist for 2012. The year started with Greta Scacchi in Nothing Personal and will end with Garry McDonald in Managing Carmen. Meanwhile here’s Nick Tate in When Dad Married Fury, already booked out before the first night and extended ‘due to overwhelming demand’.

The overwhelmingly middle-class, middle-aged Ensemble audiences know they are guaranteed good laughs and many thoughtful ideas with each new Williamson. They greet his arrival in the first night audience with sustained applause.

But this one isn’t a ‘world premiere’. It’s an extensively revised version of the play that opened Perth’s new Metcalfe Playhouse last July. Twenty minutes and two whole characters have been trimmed, which may explain the exposition-heavy first scenes during which the back story is plonked before us.

Highly contrasted brothers – engineer Ian (Warren Jones) and teacher Ben (Jamie Oxenbould) — discuss the imminent arrival from America of their rich stockbroker father Alan (Nick Tate). Dad is worth $100 million, he’s here to celebrate his 70th birthday, his wife (their mother) has died recently, he’s bringing a new young American wife named Fury with him, he’s had two heart attacks already and his sons are desperately concerned about their suddenly shaky inheritance.

Equally ruffled are Ian’s bitchy lawyer wife Sue (Lenore Smith) and Ben’s lefty/greenie wife Laura (Di Adams). Everyone’s social and political positions are swiftly and amusingly established before the highly anticipated late arrival of 33 year old Fury (Cheree Cassidy) — blonde, buxom, bible-quoting and far-far-right-wing.

Also on hand is Laura’s invalid mother Judy (Lorraine Bayly), whose husband has recently committed suicide after losing their house and all their money in one of Alan’s sure-fire investment schemes. Laura wants to return to an earlier, friendlier Australia, perhaps with the author’s approval.

Sandra Bates’ production is by no means helped by Marissa Dale-Johnson’s unspecific set design, an acting area wall-papered and floor-tiled with an over-insistent dollar bill motif. The actors must shuffle chairs and props around during the many blackouts.

There are unexpected developments in the second half, the players relish their many comic, if sometimes clichéd, moments, and the Ensemble audience is entertained throughout. Well, of course they are: it’s the new Williamson!

Frank Hatherley

Images: Cheree Cassidy, Lenore Smith,  Warren Jones, Nick Tate, Jamie Oxenbould and Di Adams, & Jamie Oxenbould and Warren Jones. Photographer: Steve Lunam. 

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