Charitable Intent

‘Charitable Intent’ is a powerful play and is the third and final play in the ‘Jack Manning Trilogy’. It was written in 2001 by one of Australia’s most prolific and highly awarded playwrights, David Williamson. The trilogy was the winner of the 2002 Green Room’s Award for ‘Best New Play’.

This 90-minute (no interval) Harbour Theatre Inc. production can be seen at the Harbour Theatre, within the Camelot Theatre complex, Mosman Park Memorial Hall, 16 Lochee Street in Mosman Park. The performances are each Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7.30 pm, with a Sunday matinée at 2.00 pm on 30th September and the 7th October.

This series introduces us to the practice of community conferencing; which is like employing a ‘marriage’ counsellor for a work dispute, in an attempt to reach an amicable resolution. I know a couple of people who are working in a similar environment and suffer daily. Whilst the mediator searches for the genuine answers, there are a few laughs and many cringing moments as the occasional insincerity and downright lie is uttered.

The scene: Modern day, in a Charity’s smart office in South Perth, with a panoramic view over the Swan. This beautiful artistic view was painted by Melissa Bassett in muted, pastel colours, giving a realistic distance interpretation. Too often in plays the view from windows are in full colour and look false.

The set: designed by Christine Ellis, is of a carpeted office complete with water cooler, coffee trolley and several black, elegant office chairs. The walls are cream with promotional photographs hanging on them. On the rear wall is a large picture window showing the Perth skyline. The overall appearance was that of a successful company. Well done set builders Brian Mahoney, Phil Redding, Grace Hitchin, Bobbie Waddell, Matt Cuccovia, David Eggleston, Ben Wade, Ian and Deborah Calvert.

Roxanne O’Connor assisted the stage manager Marina del Borello, who also selected the music for the show. The lighting and sound were designed and operated on alternate nights, by Rob Tagliaferri and Nick Wilding.

          The office door opens and the youngish, smartly dressed facilitator, Jack Manning (Robert Jackson) enters the meeting room of a charity organisation, ‘Enabling and Caring’. As he sits, two middle-aged women enter; they are frumpy, plump and insignificant Amanda (Katherine English), and her best friend and colleague, project officer Stella (Mandy Orr).
        Feeling that they have been bullied and insulted at work, they have asked the Chairman of the Board, Brenda (Vickie Billingham) for a conciliation meeting.
        When the old, supportive CEO retired, he is replaced by a new ‘get-ahead’ leader, Bryony (Charlotte Weber), who is always perfectly groomed in her designer clothes. Narcissistic Bryony reluctantly attends the conciliation meeting with her young, supercilious clique. Her new team comprises the marketing manager, Guilia (Rachel Bartlett) and her young Cassie (Andrea O’Donnell) who, after a contentious staff reshuffle, has just taken over as financial controller from Amanda.
       As Jack settles down to interviewing the group, he absorbs the various versions of what has gone on, confirming various points with the company’s HR specialist, Tamsyn (Clare Talbot).
       Do the two women really have a genuine case of bullying? Or are they just jealous of the new CEO and her daring and exciting new ideas?

This topic is very much in the news, with legal cases almost every day for various forms of bullying and sexual harassment.

The cast were all very strong, but the main character, persecuted Amanda (Katherine) was outstanding, giving a very poignant performance. Charlotte, as the Teflon-coated Bryony, smiled obnoxiously as the daggers flying around just bounced off her; filling the audience with anger and revulsion. Powerful ending. The audience could be heard to gasp on several occasions as the truth was revealed.

At the curtain call, I was hoping for Bryony to come on separately so that I could boo her (not you Charlotte).

This third part of the trilogy was again directed by Christine Ellis, who presented it about four years ago in Kalamunda. Last time Christine’s son, Brendan did an amazing job directing the first two parts of the trilogy. Seeing the first two plays was an advantage, but not an essential to enjoying this piece.

The direction called for real, in-depth character studies for each actor, with their lines being delivered with subtlety; this was achieved perfectly. The strong cast melded beautifully, but I would like to have seen a little more movement and body language.

Even on a second viewing, I still found the script compelling. Go and see this play and you will witness a friend or relative’s work experience. Most enjoyable.