As a practising lawyer of 33 years’ experience, Tony Laumberg has many experiences of the comic and often absurd situations that arise in society and the legal system, and from that experience he writes and produces comedies that explore and expose those situations.
His latest play, The Good, The Bad & The Lawyer, is Laumberg’s 13th play, and the 5th featuring his favourite repeat character of Henry Crowley, a pompous CBD lawyer from St. Ives, and his wife, a much kinder, gentler person that often finds her husband’s behaviour to be too much to handle.
Inspired by the public debate about immigration in the lead up to the Federal Election, The Good, The Bad & The Lawyer sees Crowley having to deal with an Iranian refugee who Crowley’s wife has invited to stay in their home while his claim is processed. For Laumberg, a lot of the pleasure in writing the play comes from torturing Crowley, who he says is based on a number of different lawyers he knows.
As a writer of comedy, Laumberg draws inspiration from some of the comedy greats, such as Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. He uses his comedy to make fun of the ‘sacred cows’ and iconic figures of society, and finds that audiences can relate to many situations in his plays, even while they enjoy a good laugh. As well as awkward situations, Laumberg’s comedy also derives from playing with language, a primary tool of the lawyer, and in this he also cites Groucho Marx as an inspiration. Lawyers can be, he admits, a bit verbose and love playing with words.
In The Good, The Bad & The Lawyer, Laumberg plays with the culture shock Crowley experiences, which provides plenty of opportunities for ‘comedy gold’. From the beginning the lawyer is unable to escape his new house guest, after Crowley arrives home early in the play to the announcement that the refugee will be staying with them. When Crowley rejects the idea, his wife says to ‘tell him yourself’, to which he pompously replies that he has no intention of visiting some refugee centre to talk to this person. Crowley’s wife then tells him that the man is not in some refugee centre, he’s in the kitchen having a snack. For a character who thinks that the world revolves around him, many of Crowley’s attitudes and less sociable behaviours are exposed and confronted, much to the character’s displeasure.
Crowley is not the only one to be exposed on stage, Laumberg includes other flawed characters such as Crowley’s ‘black sheep’ of a cousin who has come down from Brisbane with a ‘system’ that he is certain will win a million dollars at the roulette table… if only he can borrow $10,000 to get himself started. Laumberg says this character is also based on someone he knows but as a lawyer he knows that it’s wise not to say any more than that.
Nearly a third of the regular audience for Laumberg’s plays are lawyers, who love the depictions of the characters and events in the legal profession, but it also means that Laumberg has to make sure the legal details of his stories are correct. “I don’t want to have someone come up to me afterwards and say ‘you know that couldn’t really happen’, says Laumberg. The Good, The Bad & The Lawyer deals with someone getting into trouble for money laundering with the Australian Crime Commission, and Laumberg had to research the powers of the Commission and the way someone could get caught out money laundering ‘in order to avoid getting emails after the show’. Lawyers, it seems, can enjoy seeing themselves depicted as pompous and arrogant, but can’t let an incorrect detail slip past unnoticed. ‘They have to point out a fault’, says Laumberg.
The cast and crew of this production have a long running relationship with Laumberg’s comedy, and many of the key figures have worked together on Laumberg’s comedies for over a decade. Director, Richard Cotter, who has directed all 13 of Laumberg’s plays, has a good understanding of how to bring the characters and dialogue to life for best comic effect. Mark McCann has played the role of Crowley in every production, going back 11 years, and Laumberg loves his ability to play up the pomposity of the conservative lawyer. That McCann is a large and imposing figure is also reminiscent of the lawyers upon which the character is based.
Laumberg is passionate about writing original Australian comedy, and loves producing work for the sake of entertainment that gets audiences laughing. He finds that there is not a lot of original Australian comedy out there, and has found that established theatre companies have little interest in this kind of comedy, so he produces and funds all his own work. Laumberg aims to make his plays good, wholesome entertainment and he finds that he has built up a large repeat audience who appreciate his work. He is currently working on releasing his scripts for other groups to perform. By the way, anyone need a good lawyer?
The Good, The Bad & The Lawyer is currently in rehearsal , preparing for a three week season at the Tap Gallery, opening on 10 October.
The Good, The Bad & The Lawyer by Tony Laumberg
Directed by Richard Cotter, Design by Tony Youlden
10 to 27 October 2013 – Wed to Sat 7pm, Sundays 4pm
TAP Gallery, 278 Palmer St, Darlinghurst (near cnr. Burton St)
Preview – Thurs 10 October Press Opening Night – Fri 11 October
Tickets $30* / $24* concession or group of 8+
Preview all tickets $22* * plus agency booking fees
Bookings MCA-Tix on 1300 306 776 or www.mca-tix.com.au