‘No Names, No Packdrill’

‘No Names, No Packdrill’ was written by playwright and ex-RAF technician, Bob Herbert when he was 57 yrs old. This semi-autobiographical play was later adapted into the 1985 film, ‘Rebel’, winning five AFI awards. This poignant drama, which was published in 1980, is being presented by the Old Mill Theatre Company, and can be seen at the Old Mill Theatre on the Corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road in South Perth.

The two and a half hour production can be seen each Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 8.00 pm with a ‘Christmas Matinee’ on Sunday 13th December at the slightly later time of 4.00 pm.

The scene is 1942, in a down market, second floor flat in Sydney’s Kings Cross area. The scruffy walls are cream, with pale blue paint below the dado rail. The set designed by Kristen Twynam-Perkins was built by Phil Barnett, Travis Markham, Michiel Van Doorn and Sarah Christiner.

The quality props (Kathryn Ramsell), the costumes and uniforms (Jenny Prosser) were all accurate for the time.

John Woolrych’s fine lighting was operated by Catherine O’Donoghue. Simon Walters controlled the director’s sound design and the whole show capably stage managed by Cassidy Bodenham.

       Following a party into the early hours of the morning, an American Marine who had been asleep on the settee awakes from a recurring dream. Kathy (Melissa Merchant), the young married woman who is renting the flat whilst her husband is away at the war, rushes through to the sitting room and finds Marine Potter (Cameron Leese), better known as ‘Rebel’ lying on the floor crying and petrified. Kathy then discovers that he is ‘absent without leave’.

      There is a knock on the door and in stagger Kathy’s best friend, Joycie (Sjaan Lucas) and her new boyfriend, US airman Bernie (Joel Sammels). Within seconds, there is another knock on the door. It is the prying, supercilious landlady, Mrs Palmer (Norma Davis), a tenant’s worst nightmare. She suspects that disreputable behaviour has been taking place and emphasises that she will accept no nonsense in her building.

      With the marines (Caelan Steedman, James Smith) searching for him, and the local detective, Browning (Paul Treasure) hunting for spies secreted in the neighbourhood, Rebel realises he must get away as soon as possible. Perhaps the heartless local spiv, ‘Tiger’ Kelly (Sam Barnett), can help – at a price.

Director: Kristen Twynam-Perkins directed this play 13 years ago, and was pleased to have the chance to bring it to life again. Unfortunately the standard of acting was very variable, from powerful and convincing, almost to Harold Lloyd.

When a drama is building up to a climax, the tension is only as good as the weakest link. Even one small, but poor cameo can let the whole scene down and lose the dramatic effect.

One left having had an enjoyable night at the theatre, but not the full ‘dramatic satisfaction’.