‘The Removalists’ is a black satire, written 50 years ago by Melbourne playwright David Williamson, who has just celebrated his 80th birthday. This is one of his most notable and beautifully constructed plays. Incredibly, in the same year 1971, immediately after writing this dark and powerful play, Williamson wrote one of his funniest and most loved romps, ‘Don’s Party’.
The 1975 Australian film of this book, starred Kate Fitzpatrick, and Jacki Weaver, with Chris Haywood as the Removalist.
From The Performing Arts Association of Notre Dame Australia (PAANDA), the multi-award-winning theatre company that recently produced two of the top twelve plays in Western Australia, is now presenting David Williamson’s ‘The Removalists’.
This two and a quarter-hour performance is presented each evening from 7.30, in the University of Notre Dame’s Prindiville Hall, 19 / 25 Mouat Street in Fremantle on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday until the 4th June.
Tickets at the door or www.trybooking.com/events/landing/898320
Performed by an all-female cast, this is PAANDA’s interpretation of a highly respected play, with the production portraying concepts through a female perspective, a modern take of an Australian classic.
Through the ‘new age theatre’ genre, David Williamson involves his audiences as he explores the characters, ideals, and troubles of Australian society. After half a century this awkward microcosm of the 1970s is still prevalent today.
When Williamson appeared in one of the first productions as the removalist, along with Kristin Green they both left their spouses to be with each other.
This play contains themes such as: Domestic Abuse, Sexual Assault, Police Brutality.
If you, or anyone you know is at risk of abuse or violence, please call 1800RESPECT to access support services.
The Scene: North Fitzroy, a crime ridden area of Melbourne
The Set: A minor branch police station office. Alex Wiehl, Eloise Budimlich and Lauren Kelly have created a basic appearance with cream flats and masses of cardboard boxes. There are two desks and office chairs. With a story packed with drama they have made a wise decision not to have distracting or overpowering scenery.
Likewise, the young couple’s flat was well furnished with bland props.
Lighting design and operator: Hannah Quaden had a generally flat lit room, but sensitively employed lighting levels and colour tones to heighten the action scenes. The flash photo camera effect needs slight modification.
Sound design and operator: Ella Cooke was on cue.
Stage management: Cat Acres and her assistant stage manager Rachel Calder set the scenery up, but the cast, as part of the play demolished or removed it.
Production supervisor: Matthew L. Jones
Finances: Georgia Comerford
Marketing: Nyah Siegmund and Georgia Keamy
Front of house: Amy Hannaford. One can always be sure of a warm welcome at PAANDA.
In the local nick a nervous new recruit, Constable Neville Ross (Stella Hammond), naive and just out of police training has been sent to the police station for his first placement. He comes face to face with an old and experienced, but crooked ocker sergeant – Dan Simmonds (Holly Lynch) – a chauvinistic hypocrite who has no respect for women and abuses his power.
Whilst Simmonds is verbally bullying and testing the new constable, two sisters enter the station. One is snooty, authoritative Kate (Lily Slattery). The promiscuous wife of a dentist, she is married with three children she enjoys an upper-class lifestyle. The other sister is timid Fiona Carter (Lucy Wiese). For peace’s sake Fiona has become passive.
Kate tells the disinterested police that Fiona’s working-class, larrikin husband Kenny (Esté Breytenbach) has been abusing her insecure, vulnerable sister. Simmonds suggests that Ross takes over this ‘unimportant’ case. Kate is furious, so mentions the bruises on Fiona’s back and thigh, Simmonds inspects these personally.
When Fiona mentions leaving her husband, it is suggested her furniture that needs to be taken from the flat before Kenny returns home from the pub. Simmonds is keen to assist the women and arranges for a removalist (Martha O’Hagan) to do the work. Simmonds bring another meaning to Police Force!
Can Fiona escape Kenny?
Lucy Howe’s costumes included police uniforms, Fiona’s cheap cotton dress and stretched cardigan, Kate’s designer label clothes and the Removalist’s uniform – all looked most convincing and appropriate. The costume I liked best however, was Kenny’s. Whether it was the baggy t-shirt, checkered jacket, or the black shorts I am not sure. Perhaps it was the way this slob wore them. Esté brought a smile as Kenny lay on the settee scratching his crotch – do men do that? Ha ha.
Hair and makeup by Emily Calderbank. Emily gave us Kate’s beautiful, crimped hair, Fiona’s Plain-Jane look, the sergeants short crop and Kenny’s uncombed mass. And blood!
The all-female cast was a brave idea. Before the show I had doubts if it would work, but the cast and the three directors, Holly Lynch, Matthew L. Lynch, and Orla Poole have given us a powerful, in your face ideological, gripping, and unrelenting production. An Australian classic but what the directors have done is to see through the brutality to the true hidden meanings, past the facades to the real characters.
We see the pain of domestic abuse, the hideous nature of toxic masculinity and the abhorrent treatment of police of the decade.
As Simmonds (Holly) had a wonderful style of being the smiling assassin as he got under others skin, finding their soft trigger points before verbally attacking them.
Poor Ross (Stella) intelligent, but not too street wise struggled against his sergeant’s searching questions. Stella handled the massive temperament range from shy to explosive most convincingly. Both Holly and Stella had the first 30 minutes of the play alone; with complex, emotion-filled dialogue. Most remarkable performances.
The Removalist (Martha) managed to find the fine line between peacefully and efficiently doing his job, yet still getting his own way, and ignoring the drama going on around – he even had me working for him!
Then the two sisters, Kate (Lily) was older, taller, more dominant and protective of her kid sister, Fiona (Lucy). Lily showed deep emotion as the sergeant started his non-standard interviewing techniques. The chemistry between Kate and Fiona showed their strong bonding, accompanied by frustration when Fiona’s husband, Kenny (Esté) who, deep-down was probably a good loving man, but due to his upbringing had a low anger and tolerance threshold, with no idea how to treat his still loving dedicated wife.
Even in a show where everyone in this very strong cast gelled together to create a hellish situation, there were still patches filled with love and hate.
Esté’s performance was outstanding. If I had been his wife or a police officer, I would have been really worried about my safety. A stunning performance.
Try and see this show, I have seen the play two or three times in the past but this one will stick in my mind for years to come. A theatrical commentary on a patriarchal society through a female lens – sadly, a society still around after 50 years. Gripping. Superb, another PAANDA success.