Nick Enright‘s A Man With Five Children is the third and final in Darlinghurst’s trilogy of his works. Filmmaker Gerry wants (akin to the Up Series) to film five children one day a year until they turn 21. “You know that old maxim ‘give me a child at seven, I’ll show you the adult’?… I say, give me a child at seven and let’s see where he goes, where she goes.”
And so it begins, Gerry (Jeremy Waters) films his subjects as they grow up. Unlike the reality TV shows we are now surrounded by, Gerry does not want to manipulate or change anything about his subjects “I don’t rate your lives I follow them“. But as they play evolves and the children grow up it is clear it is not as simple as that. He convinces them to keep going through to their thirties but as time goes on the question begins to arise, has their fame, and his filmic observations actually changed them? Gerry’s own life begins to spiral
out of control as the obsession with “his life’s work” and his obsession with each of the children opens up a Pandora’s Box. He slips into emotional and sexual involvement with some, he has favourites and is less attentive to others. It is now more than simple subject observation and the results, for some, are catastrophic. What is intriguing is that not only does Gerry become obsessed with his subjects, he also manages, at times, to become so focused on filming them and capturing the moment that he is not actually emotionally present in the many pivotal moments of their lives. He was physically there but not ‘there’. Strangely prophetic with our obsession to capture every moment on our mobile devise rather than experience them.
There is wonderful work from the actors that play the children (Jemwel Danao, Chenoa Deemal, Charlotte Hazzard, Jody Kennedy, Taylor Wiese). Over the two and a half hours they play the full range of ages. As with the film, we watch them grow up in front of our eyes. The physicality and vocal work is beautiful. I cannot pick a standout as they were all so good, each having many beautiful moments.
Great work also from Ildiko Susany, Anthony Taufa and Aaron Tsindos as the loved ones unwillingly drawn into Gerry’s web.
As Gerry, Jeremy Waters does a fine job of driving this story. He packs loads of passion into this gritty and rough edged character. On opening night he settled into it more comfortably as the play went on. He shambled across the stage and growled his pleas to continue filming and to excuse his foibles. At his peak he commanded the stage and your attention. It is wonderful to see this hard working actor getting the opportunity to step up another level. The final moment of the play as Gerry had his moment of enlightenment was emotional and beautiful.
Anthony Skuse and his team of Georgia Hopkins (Production Designer), Christopher Page (Lighting Designer), Tim Hope (AV Designer) and Katelyn Shaw (Sound Designer) have made stunning use of the space. Its a simple but insightful idea, strip out everything and project images onto the back wall. The original walls of the old church [intact and untouched as a result of Heritage Act restrictions] provide a beautiful canvas for the projected images. A video camera on stage provides live footage and is mixed with pre-recorded footage for the projections. This brings the filmic nature of this story to the forefront and creates a sense of immediacy, intimacy and intrusion. My only complaint was that at times the sound became to dominating and (particularly some tribal drum moments) broke us out of the moment and intruded into the story to the point on annoyance.
Anthony Skuse has produced a powerful and insightful ensemble piece here with the actors working tightly together. He has found an underscore in this play about fighting for a sense of identity and for connection as a counterpoint to the fear or avoidance of responsibility. This creates an overall sense of loneliness and loss. For me Gerry’s avoidance of responsibility was so strong he lost some empathy throughout some of the play (it was certainly there by the end it thought). Of course this was only my opinion and certainly there were many varied ones in the foyer after the show, which is always good. No matter your view on Gerry and his weaknesses the conversation was unanimous, A Man With Five Children is a powerful play with wonderful performances.
Lynden Jones – Theatre Now
Photography by Helen White
3 – 26 June 2016
Previews: Fri 3, Sat 4 & Sun 5 June Q&A after Performance: N/A
Wed – Sat: 7pm
Wed & Thu 11am
Sat Matinees: 18 & 25 June at 2pm
Venue: Darlinghurst Theatre : Eternity Playhouse
Theatre Company: Darlinghurst Theatre Company
Duration: Approx 2 hrs 30 mins, including interval
Gerry is a documentary maker who sets out to capture the lives of five children on film. One day a year, every year, until they turn 21. As the children’s hopes and heartaches are played out on national TV, questions are raised. Is Gerry an observer or is the camera distorting their lives? As long as it makes for good television, he just keeps on filming.
Nick Enright’s insightful drama about the power of media and the cult of celebrity is more relevant now than ever.
Supported by the Enright Family
Director: Anthony Skuse
Cast: Jemwel Danao, Chenoa Deemal, Charlotte Hazzard, Jody Kennedy, Ildiko Susany, Anthony Taufa, Aaron Tsindos ,Jeremy Waters ,Taylor Wiese
Production Designer: Georgia Hopkins
Lighting Designer: Chris Page
AV Designer: Tim Hope
Assistant Director: Suzanne Pereira
Stage Manager: Derbail Kinsella
Groups (8+) $38
Under 30* $30
*Available for performances on Tue, Wed & Thu only
A $2 booking fee applies per ticket for online and phone bookings