Australian Open is a smart, sleek and epically glorious romp that pulls on the treads of Australia’s hang ups on monogamy, queer representation, self-fulfilment and sport. This may seem like a lot to unpack in a mere 90 minutes but this production never feels bloated or unnecessarily rushed, but rather the sharp writing and deft direction deliver a grand slam.
At its core Australian Open is a family drama, albeit a dysfunctional one, but strangely one that feels more honest and open than most. None of the characters feel clichéd or tokenistic, and though heightened, the dialogue between each character is refreshingly restrained, nuanced and entertainingly believable.
Angus Cameron is a supremely skilled writer. His writing is a melting pot of wit, social commentary, humour and savage take downs, all allowing for a true sense of play and whimsy to take to the stage. One can feel the thought behind each moment and sentence, carefully selected and meticulously placed to achieve the perfect scene. He damn well makes it look effortless.
Cameron’s skill shines within Australian Open. He isn’t subtle with the themes and issues he is looking to explore, but is not so obvious as to strip away the fun. Rather than regurgitating countless articles and blog posts on marriage, relationships and societies rules for both, he explores the edges of the arguments, the grey areas, and the messy bits that don’t quite make sense and contradict.
Riley Spadaro’s direction is the perfect pairing for Cameron’s writing. Spadaro injects the precise level of camp, and dollops in a generous helping of surprises, allowing the pace and energy to remain high and the audience begging for more.
The direction is equally as strong and clever as the writing, and Spadaro’s eye for detail and care are second to none. One can see a director at the top of their game, enjoying and relishing each moment while still using the lightest of touches to allow the ensemble room to play.
Di Adams, Gerard Carroll, Miranda Daughtry, Patrick Jhanur, Tom Anson Mesker and Tom Russell make up the powerhouse ensemble to work together so well that you just can’t imagine anyone else filling these character’s shoes.
Each of the cast are generous in their performance, giving a thoroughly honest and watchable performance while never outshining or playing it up for laughs. They all work so well together, embracing the writing and direction and hurling themselves in for the ride. Egos feel well and truly left at the door.
Grace Deacon’s set is a striking shade of green that somehow manages to assist in grounding the work in the realities of the themes. Phoebe Pilcher’s lighting and Alex Turley’s sound design further encase the work, adding a fourth wall of sorts, allowing the audience a level of distance and in doing so making us very willing voyeurs.
Even though I saw a preview performance, I can’t imagine much would need to change from what is already a solid production. Likewise I would be very surprised if this work isn’t picked up for a longer return season in 2021 by a main stage company – after all, this smart, funny and very Australian spin on modern relationships ticks all the boxes… what more do they need?
Kings Cross Theatre – Kings Cross Hotel, 244 – 248 William Street, Potts Point (Sydney)
Performance: Sunday 16 February 2020 (preview performance)
Season continues to 29 February 2020
Information and Bookings: www.presentedbybub.com
Image: Patrick Jhanur in Australian Open – photo by Clare Hawley
Review: Gavin Roach