Pictured above : A  tense mother and daughter relationship ; Emma Diaz as Penny and Caitlin Burney as Rachel in THE GREAT DIVIDE. Pic Brett Boardman

Kate Raison, James Lugton, John Wood in THE GREAT DIVIDE. Pic Brett Boardman
Kate Raison, Georgie Parker in THE GREAT DIVIDE. Pic Brett Boardman
Georgie Parker, John Wood in THE GREAT DIVIDE. Pix Brett Boardman
Caitlin Burley in THE GREAT DIVIDE. Pic Brett Boardman

Penny Poulter is a single mother with a teenage daughter Rachel who has lived all  her life in the beautiful coastal town of Wallis Heads. She is a salt of the earth woman, no pretentions.  Stacks the shelves at one of the sleepy town’s supermarkets.

Penny has been creating some noise in town because a well known developer Alex Whittle has put in a development application for a  new, state of the art gold course. Alex has been seen schmoozing with the local mayor. She doesn’t get a good feeling about it and gets some coverage  in the local paper.

Alex is not happy about it and puts pressure on the editor and the Mayor to tell Penny to zip it. Things come to a head when Alex’s personal assistant, disgruntled with the treatment she receives from her prickly boss, leaks to Penny Poulter that Alex has much bigger plans for Wallis Head and wants to make it in to a tourist town.

Williamson’s latest play ranks midrange in his large body of work. The play’s title references the great divide that exists in Australian society between the haves and not haves. As time rolls on, the divide grows greater and greater.

The scenario plays out in a linear, unsurprising way. Williamson’s craftsmanship, and his way with clever dialogue and witty one liners, are on show. My favourite aspect of the play was its easily relatable characters.

Mark Kilmurry’s production serves the play well.

Georgie Parker was, as always great, as the immoral, single minded, prize capitalist Alex Whittle who only has eyes for profit margins and only feigns caring for the community by offering scholarships and the like.

Kate Raison plays her hard working personal assistant Grace whom Alex treats disdainfully. Grace summons up some backbone and lets leak out some of her boss’s bigger plans for the town.

Emma Diaz is excellent as Penny Poulter who doesn’t want her charming coastal town/village, where people enjoy  lead ordinary, uncomplicated lives and turn it in to a ritzy, jazzed up tourist town with outrageous property prices.

Penny’s daughter Rachel is well played by Caitlin Burley. Rachel is a feisty teenager full of the brazenness, brashness and self confidence of  youth, she was sure to become a champion sportswoman, and there would be nothing that her mother could say that would stand in her way.

John Wood was excellent as the gruff, easily manipulated and pushed around Mayor, Alan Bridger. who just wanted a quiet life out of the limelight.

James Lugton was convincing as the ragged, unkempt local paper editor, Brian, who tries to hold on to the mandate of his newspaper, to enliven and foster the local community. Late in the play  Lugton also plays the role of a debate monitor.

Kilmurry’s design team effectively provide the frame for the actors to work in; James Browne’s ‘coastal’ set and costume design and Daryl Wallis’ soundscape. What stood out for me most was Veronique Benett’s excellent lighting design.

David Williamson’s THE GREAT DIVIDE directed by Mark Kilmurry opened at the Ensemble Theatre on Thursday 14th March and is playing until the 27th April 2024.


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