Written by David Williamson
Directed by Wesley Enoch
The use of a revolving set is particularly appropriate in David Williamson’s latest play, Managing Carmen, given the dual storylines of the play. You’ve probably already made up your mind about the storyline from the poster art: Managing Carmen is a play about a heterosexual AFL player who enjoys dressing up in women’s clothing, right? On the surface, this is true. But as the set changes, so does the storyline, and the audience can see that the play is also about the deeper intricacies of an AFL manager’s relationships with his team, their sponsors, the media and the public. Managing Carmen shows how an AFL manager will try to keep his head and the heads of his team above water when circumstances are pushing them all to sink. At least that’s the intention.
A young AFL star’s secret habit of dressing up as a woman, aka Carmen Get-Me, is the catalyst for the events in the play. Everyone has seen how stiff and awkward Brent Lyall (played by Timothy Dashwood) is off the field, which makes maintaining his public image and attracting sponsors particularly challenging for his manager Rohan (played by John Batchelor). The ex-hooker Rohan hired to play Brent’s girlfriend isn’t quashing the suspicions of a local sports journalist that something isn’t quite right with Brent, so Rohan hires a professional (think The King’s Speech) to help loosen up the inhibited footy player. Romance, disaster and triumph are the predictable occurrences that follow.
The actors are well cast and significantly liven up a script that is unfortunately overly-reliant on clichés and lacking the delivery of well-intentioned ideas and concepts. Williamson has not quite executed the merging of the two plots, so the energy of the play, and the applause it receives from the audience, fade in and out like a radio being tuned. It’s still an entertaining night out, though, and AFL fans in particular will probably get a good kick out of it, but Williamson isn’t quite up to par.
Claire Lovering isn’t given as much stage time as her talent deserves though, and Greg McNeill is probably given a little too much and overworks his two-dimensional character of the villainous sports journalist as a result. Batchelor is excellent as Brent’s manager, and is surpassed only perhaps by Dashwood himself, whose seamless transitions between his dual roles are consistently impressive.
Managing Carmen’s soundtrack plays like a Lady Gaga CD, flavoured with the likes of the essential ‘Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun’ for the opening of Act II. It is a fun, upbeat soundtrack that is well-chosen and keeps the audience engaged.
As the director, Wesley Enoch is charged with a similar task as Rohan in keeping things afloat when occasionally they look a bit bleak. Fortunately, he does this with great success.
Managing Carmen won’t shock you or change you, but it might open your mind to the possibility of seeing something that will. If you’ve already bought your ticket, you won’t be disappointed: it’s a fun, light show with a talented cast and enough laugh-out-loud moments to sustain you to the end.
Season: 13 Oct – 4 Nov