REVIEWER RATING: ★★★.5
Angus Cameron is the Melbourne-based playwright behind Australian Open. The play was developed through Melbourne Theatre Company’s CYBEC Electric Program and then, last August, a staged reading of the play was held at Kings Cross Theatre, as part of its KXTeethcutting program. Last week, the world premiere production of the play opened in the same Sydney theatre, presented by indie theatre company bub, in association with bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company.
Australian Open begins with a 31st birthday celebration for Felix (Tom Anson Mesker) with his boyfriend, Lucas (Patrick Jhanur), and Felix’s parents, Belinda (Di Adams) and Peter (Gerard Carroll). Lucas is a top-ranked professional tennis player and has just lost the American Open to Roger Federer. That recent defeat is the hot topic of conversation at this family dinner table until a revelation that instantly steals focus. It comes to light that even if Felix and Lucas decide to marry, they will continue to have an open relationship.
The news of the pair’s intention to continue to eschew monogamy doesn’t sit well with Felix’s parents, especially Belinda. It spawns discussion about whether having an open relationship is ‘grown-up’ behaviour, whether consenting to one another having multiple partners promotes more honesty and candidness, and whether, here, it will mean Felix and Lucas are ultimately happier. But the disclosure also becomes the catalyst for Felix’s parents’ reflection on their own lengthy married life together. They begin to wonder whether they have inadvertently let life pass them by and failed to accomplish what they had hoped to achieve.
Cameron’s Australian Open is a sharply written romcom piece, putting both traditional and progressive ideas under the spotlight and affording audiences the chance to have a lot of fun on the 90-minute journey. Along with its social commentary, the text is replete with laugh-out-loud moments, with the ball continuing to be hit back and forth in a series of singles and doubles contests.
Director Riley Spadaro takes Cameron’s work and serves up 90 minutes of funny, challenging and camp entertainment. Events take place on Grace Deacon’s set, resembling a tennis court, for which KXT’s intimate traverse space works ideally, providing all attendees a clear courtside view. Transitions are managed creatively and Phoebe Pilcher makes good lighting choices. On top of that, some irresistible music selections further enhance the show’s fun vibe.
Spadaro racks up six aces in the form of his uniformly wonderful cast members. Anson Mesker is terrific as a neurotic Felix, who can’t quite figure out precisely what he wants out of his relationship. Jhanur is perfectly cast as Lucas, the elite tennis player in peak condition who seems much more self-assured than his partner. Adams and Carroll turn in strong performances as the older couple in crisis, reluctantly contemplating alternative futures. Miranda Daughtry is excellent, demonstrating impressive deadpan delivery as Felix’s academic and physicist sister, Annabelle, who has recently returned from Switzerland. And Tom Russell rounds out the cast as the ‘Hot Ball Boy’, running onto court to reform the space as required.
Australian Open is a highly enjoyable, socially interesting piece that will appeal to a wide range of theatregoers. But, be warned, there’s only another week until the curtain closer of the season.
Photo credit: Clare Hawley
AUSTRALIAN OPEN – SEASON DETAILS
DATES: Playing now until 29 February 2020
VENUE: Kings Cross Theatre
TICKETS From $30 (+ booking fee)