Managing Carmen

‘Managing Carmen’ is the hilarious, fast moving 2012 comedy from acclaimed Australian playwright, David Williamson. Although turning 79 this week, David has produced a further six plays since this controversial and very demanding piece was written. Black Swan had the honour of staging the World Premiere of this fabulous play in late 2012 and this is the third time I have seen the play and consider it the best interpretation yet.

I suspect with its 43 scene changes that the play was written as a TV or cinema script, where intercutting scenes is easy; for a stage production this was a major challenge. The other two versions had fast and efficient scene changes, but with even a rapid 20 second room change that adds 15 minutes to a production and the constant breaks ruins the play’s pace. Today, we have the new magical projectors that can not only project very realistic static scenes over the whole rear cyclorama but can now produce inserted moving videos within the main picture. WAAPA kindly loaned the expensive projector ($6,000 up) and Stuart Ridgway then produced the four dozen, high quality ‘scene changes on video’ – superb and highly skilled work. The crisp photos give a full realism to the venues or outdoor scenes.

This Garrick Theatre production is grateful to The Stirling Arms for their assistance in staging the play.

The play is being presented by the Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street, Guildford and the two-hour play runs nightly at 8.00 from Thursday 25th February to March 13th.

The Set: was designed by Jake Newby and constructed by the TAG team, Rodney Palmer and James Nailen.

The stage was matte black. The whole rear wall was a projection screen, with a pale blue glow showing between the video breaks. The stage was filled with a massive four-seat, studded black leather settee. At the side was a small coffee table and two matching leather, studded tub chairs. An aspidistra plant was at each side. To the side of the stage apron was a small writing desk and a set of shelves storing drinks and wineglasses. A 1-metre tall, bar table was covered in black drape as part of the local strip club and bar.

The scenes: Present day. The footie club’s publicity office. The player’s flat with river views. The psychologist’s office. The local nightclub and bar.

The carefully considered lighting design was by Jake Newby. The projection, sound and lighting operation was by Caileb Holmbergen Crute and Stuart Ridgway.

Stage manager Graeme Dick and his assistant stage manager Matthew Roberts ensured that the stage crew, who were actors with several cameo parts, doubled perfectly. Props and backstage assistant Marion West checked the finer points of the cast’s fast changes.

Twenty-two years old, handsome, shy Brent Lyall (Thomas McCracken) is a dual Brownlow medallist and National AFL hero. His slimy, money grabbing, manipulating manager, Rohan (Tim Presant) has arranged for Brent to record a multi-million-dollar, advertising campaign for vitamins. Despite the potential of making three times his annual salary from this advertising, after forty takes of Brent’s voice retaining the same disinterested and boring tone, the contract is about to be cancelled. Even at footie dinners he shows little attention to his beautiful partner, Clara (Pauline Rosman).

Foulmouthed manager Rohan decides to call in psychologist, Jessica (Sarah House) to try and discover why his player never shows empathy or emotion. Brent is not the simple country boy he seems: He has a secret.

A famous but disreputable sports journalist, Max Upfield (Tim Fraser) is always out for a scandalous scoop – but can he get it? What is Brent’s problem?

The three TV sports reporters, James Brayshaw (Kailem Mollard), Wayne Carey (Adam Giltrow) and Shane Crawford (Matthew Roberts) are on the Match of the Day couch reporting on the game and the changes in Brent’s moods. Whilst a young female fan (Ellien van Heerwaarden) thinks Brent is the best.

What is Brent’s problem? Will he give up this lucrative contract?

Williamson’s plays and comedies had a few years when the humour was quite dark, political and that he appeared to be driving a message; this play however is light-hearted and very funny, as Williamson returns to his madcap scenarios, we learnt to love in the 70s, like ‘Don’s Party’.

Directed by the multi-award-winning director, Siobhán Vincent and aided by her treasured ‘go for’ man Friday, Dame Kerry Goode, this show glows. There had been three earlier attempts by this theatre to present this play, but each crumbled for various reasons. The main requirement for staging this play is finding a ‘Brent’ who would be completely comfortable with the part. Any slight embarrassment is quickly picked up by the audience and multiplied tenfold in their minds. With WAAPA graduate Tom McCracken the ideal actor was found; Thomas having played a young French King in ‘A Lion in Winter’, then Dracula and next as Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter take-off, ‘Puffs’. He is proving a talent with a massive future.

Sarah House was absolutely wonderful as the staid psychologist who found her other soft feminine side. Then lock up your daughters if Tim Presant is around, totally obnoxious – brilliant. With both a Curtin and a WAAPA education, Pauline Rosman has no fear in tackling any part. I saw her first in the dark play ‘Blackrock’ and then a month ago as a struggling MS sufferer; previously she was Gwendolen in two very different productions of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, but she is still happy to be a lighting designer and costume lady. Like Thomas, an immense future could be ahead. Tim Fraser? What can I say? Always gives his all. He appears regularly in plays, sometimes as royalty – King Henry ll – but often in very well interpreted character parts; here Tim gives us the perfect alcoholic, obnoxious, pushy newspaper reporter. The whole cast was top-notch. Siobhán is always great, but this play was extra special – well done. A huge amount of complicated work by Siobhán carried off with aplomb. A difficult play to present.

If you feel that you want to support Brent on his journey, be like a couple of audience members and wear your favourite ladies’ outfit.

The costumes sourced and made by Marjorie deCaux and Colleen Bradford ranged from scruffy footie shirts and ripped jeans, to top of the range, jaw dropping designer dresses. Lynda Stubbs has supplied wigs for years, normally an old lady’s greying wig but here she has had to supply an attractive long flowing dream.

Very much recommended, but I suspect that some nights – if not all – may well be already sold out.


  1. Dear Gordon. I am so pleased you enjoyed the play. Kerry did not co direct. She was script assistant. I would be grateful if you could fix this error. Thanks Siobhan

    1. So sorry, I read director’s assistant to mean assistant director. My fault. All sorted. Apologies again Kind regards Gordon

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