Always curious to check out new writing and new playwrights I made my way over to The Greek Theatre in the Addison Road complex. The play was written by an up-and-coming SUDS (Sydney University Dramatic Society) member, Julian Larnach and directed by Jenna Martin.

I was curious to see this work – to hear what interests and excites the new generation of writers. I was curious to see the form, the content – and also keen to check out Martin’s work, having recently seen her perform in Mongrel at Newtown Theatre opposite Terry Serio.

The blurb goes like this:
Written by emerging Sydney playwright Julian Larnach, ‘All But Won’ is the story of Bible Tops, who left his small NSW country town for the army after September 11, praised as a hero. Returning for the funeral of the girl he left behind, he is greeted with courtesy and embraces. But searing under the surface lies the tension of a community turned sour. Accompanied by his army buddy Jack, he must navigate a fragile town in a state of loss and mourning.

There is a lot I want to say about this play and this production.


I haven’t been asked to review this – and in fact I paid $25 to watch this show, so I am speaking as a paying punter.

When I consider that $25 could buy me a ticket to the Fitz or a cheap night at any one of the established theatres around town I really was ready to ask – what is the value of this show? Where is this money going – who to, and what for? From what I ould see this was a co-op arrangement and had received some patronage from an individual – which I must say is a huge. A $25 ticket price point suggests a level of quality – a level of quality that puts it above a development showing, a moved reading or even a university/SUDS production. If this is a show – a full production of new Australian work – as opposed to a development it MUST be given more resources. I saw a team mistake having no budget and no resources for poor theatre aesthetic. They are not to be confused. Here’s a small point.

We see in a naturalistic play – delivered in a naturalistic way – a tressle table from bunnings, covered with a tablecloth that is ill-fitting. We see ‘mum’ and ‘Bible Tops’ set the table. They place a masterfoods pepper grinder and a small saxa salt shaker on the table. It’s one step up from camping. Mum, however is wearing one of the most beautiful pairs of shoes I have ever seen on stage. Now – in what reality would a humble minister’s wife be in flashy heels, whilst she surrenders all housekeeping pride (since the dominient gender sterotypes are maintained)? What about the other props – a kitchen trolley cleverly (unconvincingly) hidden by a piece of cloth to become a funeral altar… not great. Infact, distracting.

And I would also say – not good enough.

The producer and director of new work have a massive responsibility to the writer and the actors. A producer and director not getting or giving the best possible to a new play is like an actor walking on stage and not knowing their lines. It lets the play, the writer and the audience down.

The writer has a huge responsibility to the cast and the audience for the story that is being told- for both cast and audience will forever have to live with that experience.
The director must ensure that the writer’s vision/story is coherent and presented by the best cast, in the best, most engaging way possible.
The producer is there to make sure the director’s vision is fulfilled (or very close to it).
The fact that there was an assistant director, and a full team of designer (and publicist AND costume designer!) and yet the show itself seemed to be un-supported seems baffling to me. Utterly!

A huge amount of care was given to the scene change seguay music (also distracting and created LONG pauses for the action and thus slowing the pace of the work) – perhaps the ticket money was required to pay for the rights associated with such a catalogue of tunes.

I don’t want to dramaturgically dissect this play – because that seems unfair – especially if it is so obvious that in design and execution that the script is underserviced by the team. It is no wonder the play script itself needed a sharp eye, sharp pen and a robust and passionate dramaturg. But I will ask a few questions: the friend of Bible Tops that followed him everywhere on stage – was he a ghost, or his subconscious, or a memory or was he just a character ignored by everyone else on stage? Why was the brother so easilly restrained by a mother and girlfriend? Why was the mother trying to protect her abusive husband at the end of the play?

This was one of the more exhausting and depressing events of my fringe experience – I saw passion and time squandered in the name of a new play. Come on, guys, you can do better than that, surely?