The J Noosa
July 21 – 22
David Williamson is one of Australia’s most productive and popular playwrights, these days equally lauded for the accessibility of his works’ storytelling and condemned for their perceived deficiencies in meaning making. And “Dream Home” is another of his formulaic social comedies.
The story begins with the joy of a young Sydney couple, Paul (Guy Edmonds) and his pregnant wife Dana (HaiHa Le), moving into their newly purchased, first home, eager to embrace the great Australian dream. However, the Shangri-la apartment complex soon turns out to be more nightmare than fantasy, as its dysfunctional residents begin to drop by. There’s Sam (Justin Stewart Cotta), the tough-talking, violent Lions-of-Lebanon bouncer bully and his seductive wife Collete (Xanthe Coward), Wilma (Katrina Foster), the cake-baking kleptomaniac and resident busybody, and Henry (Alan Flower) and his cougar wife Cynthia (Olivia Pigeot), a miserable married couple.
Together they are a melting pot of conflict, who individually turn to Paul for assistance in sorting out their lives. The result is more light-hearted farce than serious, contemplative drama, which unfortunately has to resort to reliable racial and gender stereotypes. However, it provides for many comfortable laughs from audiences who no doubt recognise aspects of themselves on stage and, as a middle class comedy of manners, minus the manners, is filled with entertaining lines. The inclusion of topical political gags, for example, are clearly appreciated by the packed audience. However, there is little innovation and more than one moment of discomfort when light is made of violence within the everyday arguments over car parks and garbage bins.
Guy Edmonds is utterly endearing as the good-natured protagonist Paul who carries much of the production. That is not to say that there are any weak links in the cast by any means and it is indeed a privilege to see the bulk of the cast from the show’s premiere Sydney run earlier this year returned for its Queensland premiere. The interactions between Edmond’s mild-mannered Paul and Cotta’s intimidating tour-de-force Sam are a joy to watch as Paul frets over the possibility of Sam discovering that his now wife was once Paul’s lover. And there is a moment of absolute glee when the audience shares in audible gasp of recognition of a slip-of-the-tongue gone unnoticed by a character on stage, such is their investment in the narrative unfolding in front of them.
Clearly, despite any criticisms, David Williamson’s social comedy is as popular as ever and with its vivid characters and almost absurd plot, “Dream Home” certainly caters for this demand. Though their character types and scenarios may feel stereotypical and lacking in substance, the performances are all great and the comedy reliable, which can possibly never really be a bad thing, especially given that Williamson has been quoted as saying that he will keep on writing as long as people keep coming to his play.