Set in Redfern, NSW in the 1950’s this classic Australian drama, written by Dorothy Hewett, is given new life in Adapt Enterprises’s thought-provoking production of This Old Man Comes Rolling Home.
Entering Bakehouse Theatre, the mood is set with commercial footage and the familiar dulcet tones of ‘black and white’ advertisements. The intimate space and the well-selected songs serve to transport us like a ‘fly on the wall’ to witness the goings on behind closed doors in the Dockerty household. This up close and personal play shines light on the internal and external conflicts associated with status, class and consent.
We see the good, the bad and the ugly of a culture steeped in patriotism, hardship and the tenacity to keep going no matter what. It was an ambitious choice by Ross Vosvotekas to simultaneously produce, direct and act in the pivotal role of Tom Dockerty, a middle class father working to keep his family together.
Mrs Laurie Dockerty (Cheryl Douglas) convincingly anaesthetises her long held disappointments by remaining connected to a photo that radiates her beauty and in arms reach of addictions that offer life support.
As each of the Dockerty siblings, Lan (Josh Battersby), Julie (Delia Taylor), Pet (Rachael Horbelt) Don (Graham Self) George (John Dexter) and Joycee (Casey Ellis) aspire to a better future, they face the challenges of jealousy, favouritism and internal politics. Edie (Emily McMahon) marries into the family and adopts the indelible family code, where history repeats itself, dissatisfaction breeds contempt and the cycle continues.
Daisy (Kerry-Anne James), Violet (Rachael Horbelt) and Pansy (Casey Ellis), provide gossiping social commentary and comic relief between scenes of heartache, heartbreak and heart warming loyalty.
The apple of her father’s eye, his eldest daughter Julie, returns from a stint in Tasmania, lighting up the stage with her enigmatic presence. Reminded of past dreams and aspirations with ‘Sno’ (Jarrad Parker) they face the push-pull of desire, while visiting friend Fay (Amy Victoria Brooks) faces an unexpected destiny.
Public bench-dwelling ‘Old Man’ (John Dexter), affectionately referred to as ‘Pop’ represents an irony of extremes and a message that whether we live in the complicated trajectory of a family or experience a life of virtual solitude, no one escapes life’s challenges.
Reproducing a time when much was swept under the carpet, this well-developed production offers a satisfying and enriching night of reflection and reminiscing of an era that lives on in the music and memories of the unforgettable characters in This Old Man Comes Rolling Home.
The production is playing at the Bakehouse Theatre in Adelaide, Wednesday to Saturday until 3 August.
© Patricia Herreen 2013