Let The Sunshine Review
A bit of a late review here for the Melbourne Theatre Company’s current production of David Williamson’s Let The Sunshine, currently showing at The Playhouse, Arts Centre, until September 4.
Australian readers of The Drama Teacher will know that David Williamson is Australia’s most successful playwright and has been one of our most prolific over the past four decades.
The two biggest and most common criticisms over many years have been that one Williamson play is just like the last, and that his works often fail to connect with mainstream Australia, because his plays usually centre around issues affecting middle class white Australians.
On the latter, middle class white people are surely not the “average Australian” today, but it seems this demographic may well still be a large part of the average state theatre company’s patronage. If this is the case, then Williamson is still hitting the right spot with his audiences, even if his plays themselves may not be reflective of the average Australian in the wider community (anymore).
In some respects, Let The Sunshine was indeed just like many other of Williamson’s plays in recent years. But on another level, I was pleasantly surprised this work was funnier than I had expected, with some fine acting lead by seasoned actors John Wood and Jacki Weaver.
I took a big risk with this play and brought along a Year 10 class studying Unit 2 Theatre Studies and a Year 11 Drama class, because the play suited topics studied in the two different courses. While I am blessed with a very mature group of Year 10 girls (15 and 16 years old), their experience of live theatre is limited. They nevertheless had the following observations after attending Let The Sunshine:
- why is it that Broadway musical sets seem to be getting bigger and more expensive every year, while mainstream dramatic play sets seem to be getting smaller and cheaper-looking?
- how come state theatre companies seem to be “getting away with” minimalistic stage sets, with few props, and why are audiences just sitting back and accepting this?
- why did such an experienced stage director as Michael Gow deliberately allow split scenes to take place in Let The Sunshine, with characters in the “dead” scene moving quietly in full view of the audience while the “live” scene took place right next to them, only to be passed by an exiting actor from the other scene when their scene became “live”? (clumsy directing???)
- is it okay for little or no attempt to be made in “Let The Sunshine” to change the set and was it “non-naturalism”, budget constraints or just laziness that resulted in the one stage set being used for up to half a dozen locations in this play?
- Was it playwright Williamson or set designer Robert Kemp who decided to insult the audience’s intelligence by having huge canvass images of Noosa and Sydney in the rear of the set for Let The Sunshine, as the audience could clearly determine the locations by the dialogue in the play, itself.
Well, these were student observations from a very young class. Never underestimate the power of thought inside the average teenager who loves theatre!