As one of the last plays presented before they have to vacate the premises they have performed in since 1954, the Genesian Theatre is presenting  David Williamson’s Travelling North. In some ways it is a fitting choice; the play has an air of sadness,  a memory of lives lived and certainly many shows  have been produced on that carved proscenium arched stage.

David Williamson is known for writing for a certain audience and Travelling North, one of his more well-known plays, certainly caters to this audience. It is, however, a very filmic script. Most scenes  last for only a few minutes  (if that) and the location and time changes are frequent. This type of work demands a very creative vision to ensure a smooth flow of energy and engagement. Unfortunately, the approach to this production uses blackouts and scene re-sets every time. It often felt as though the audience spent more time in the dark, waiting for a scene to be set than in actual action. It affected the energy of the play, making it sluggish and inconsistent.

I understand there were several private traumatic events in the final weeks before opening. This would possibly explain the under-rehearsed feel of the performance.  Most of the cast seemed not connected to their characters and more than once, uncertain of their lines. The only performance which felt authentic in any way was Sandra Bass’ Dr Sarah Morgenstein; her comic timing and understanding of her role provided the light relief the play needed.

The tech crew’s cues lacked subtlety and whispers from the bio box were audible.  A few more performances may fix these various issues but the stop/start nature of the staging will continue to have a negative effect on audience engagement.

On the night, the play received emotional support from the audience, faithful followers and the true grassroots of this theatre company.

The Genesian Theatre has provided Sydney audiences with great entertainment over many decades. Unfortunately, this does them no credit.

Kate Stratford – Theatre Now & On The Town

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