More than 50 plays over 50 years of writing, Australia’s most prolific and successful playwright, David Williamson, has recently announced his retirement . Fitting, then, that Melbourne Theatre Company is about to launch into Williamson’s 1987 gem, Emerald City, to mark this milestone half a century.
A semi-autobiographical tale, based loosely on Williamson’s own family, the Rogers family seek solace from the creative drabness of Melbourne moving to the shining allure of Sydney. The yellow brick road beckons, but will Colin and Kate find only their own, more frightening, version of Dorothy’s flimflam man?
Williamson’s trademark acerbic wit corners and dissects contemporary values with valor, exploring themes such as the compromise of ideals, materialism and ego, Williamson’s Emerald City is a no holds barred auditory feast.
A dark ride into the promised land, actor, Megan Hind, (Secret Bridesmaid’s Business) sums up the hefty themes explored as: personal purpose and moral values; who do we become and how do we fit into the world by either pursuing fame and fortune, or art and creativity, or are both possible?
Hind plays Helen, who works freelance in PR and is Mike’s (a womanising hack writer) girlfriend. Mike references her as being a motivation for him to succeed, and she becomes a moral dilemma to Colin when they meet as he is quite taken by her.
Williamson’s brilliant prose had struck Hind from the beginning, describing it as a subtle Shakespearian style of writing that seems to permeate the play. “Such beautiful and descriptive language, it was easy to get lost in the imagery when reading the play for the first time,” she says. “One thing that struck me about Helen, and then I noticed in other characters, is the conflicting points of view that they all seem to hold. Jason Klarwein, who plays Colin, pointed out that this is a concept that came about from Shakespeare, the most famous example, ‘to be or not to be, that is the question’.”
For Hind, one of the challenges has been to navigate the ambiguity of her character as well as finding the layers that a 2020 interpretation may dictate.
“This vocalised conflict has made it tricky for me as an actor, because what Helen wants is not particularly apparent,” says Hind.” She seems to value one thing, and does another, but that’s what also makes her interesting to me.” Hind spoke with Andrea Moore, who played Helen in the first production of Emerald City, and she felt that in 1987 it was easier to play Helen on face value. “The whole Idea of being a material girl was acceptable, whereas now I feel that I have more responsibility to the representation of women on stage,” says Hind.
Emerald City is a co-production with Queensland Theatre, and Hind says that, as an actor, it’s been a dream to work for the state theatre companies. “I felt very honoured when I was asked to audition without having done a play since drama school three years ago,” she says. “I had also heard wonderful things about Sam Strong as a director, and the cast, ( Nadine Garner, Marg Downey, Rhys Muldoon, Jason Klarwein, Ray Chong Nee) creatives and crew involved are so talented and experienced it seemed like a dream team to be a part of!”
MTC is pleased to present the revival of Williamson’s classic play in this special year for Australian theatre. Hind describes it as an Australian comedy classic – it’s a gorgeous portrait of people questioning themselves, their relationships and the world around them.
March 6 – April 18
Image: Charlie Kinross