Director: Lee Lewis
Writer: David Williamson
Runtime: 140 mins.
Australian release date: 30 April 2016
Previewed at: Ritz Cinema, Randwick, Sydney, on 27 April 2016.
Australian National Theatre Live (ANT Live) is the Aussie version of the fabulous National Theatre Live (from the UK) series of plays that we’ve been privileged to view for some years now.
It’s a relatively recent venture releasing filmed theatrical productions of Australian works and the latest cab off the rank is David Williamson’s wonderful 1987 comedy Emerald City, which had a highly successful revival at Sydney’s Griffin Theatre in 2014. Co-founded by actor Grant Dodwell, who has a 30-year artistic career under his belt, ANT Live is determined to bridge the gap that exists between the wealth of theatre in the city and the lack of it in the country. The company plans to record performances in real time using high definition digital cameras and distribute them to rural and regional centres that wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to enjoy these plays.
If Emerald City is an example of what to expect, people won’t be disappointed. Williamson’s play still holds up very well, even though it’s depressing to realise that the issues it covers are still so relevant today. The desire for artistic credibility versus the lust for money and power is the paramount theme of the script; a secondary one is the old love/hate relationship between Sydney and Melbourne, which somehow still seems fresh even if many of us have come to the conclusion that comparisons are odious and one’s preference for where one lives comes down to more than cultural stereotypes.
The camerawork virtually brings the performers into our laps and the solid cast headed by Mitchell Butel and ably supported by Lucy Bell, Ben Winspear, Kelly Paterniti and Gareth Yuen , is as engaging on screen as it was on the rather cramped stage. Ken Done’s colourful harbour backdrop looks great and is very apt, considering the relevance to the play of Sydney’s harbour views!
Griffin Theatre Company’s talented artistic director, Lee Lewis, is delighted to be supporting the productions as she strongly feels that, being a girl from the country, she always felt she missed out on live theatre. ANT Live will hopefully bring a wider audience to see the works on show and, in turn, make people more interested in returning to their local theatres after such an enjoyable experience. Emerald City is theatre/film at its most entertaining: it’s very funny while being, like all great plays, ageless and providing food for thought.