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The Guild Theatre – Gulls – Grant Leslie Photography


The Guild Theatre – Gulls – Grant Leslie Photography

Rockdale’s Theatre Guild is currently performing an Australian play, Robert Hewett’s 1983 play GULLs received a mainstream production at the Melbourne Theatre Company and at the time won the Green Room Award for Best Play and was nominated for the Premier’s Literary Award. It has then been produced around Australia and has been performed internationally.

GULLS is set in the Melbourne seaside  town of Portarlington and features just four characters.

Donna Randall gives a terrific, very focused performance as  Frances Clements. Frances is a middle ged woman whose life has taken a bitter turn. Her older brother Bill, well played by Mark Stokes, suffered severe brain damage after being a passenger in a car accident. Rather than have Bill spend the rest of his life in institutional care Frances resolves to look after him at home. A very sensitive soul Bill picks up that he is a burden for his sister and is uncomfortable about it.

Brett Van Heckeren gives a forceful performance as  Dan who plays quite a pivotal role. Dan was the driver involved in the fateful accident. At the time he was in a relationship with Frances. A bit later on he asks Frances to  marry him.  The only caveat is that she has to put Bill in to care. Frances has to decide, does she accept  Dan’s proposal or does she continue to devote herself to caring for her brother? Dan pressures her  to stop being a martyr and get her own life back again.

Lyn Lee gives the performance of the night as the very caring and intrusive neighbour Molly. As soon as Frances moves in to the neighbourhood, she makes herself known! Frances is offered a part time job  and is able to take it because Molly will look after Bill. Lee is very convincing as a bossy, Sergeant Major type. Her interactions with the other characters are feisty and compelling.

Hewett’s play doesn’t hold back on addressing a very difficult subject and some of the scenes are confronting even for an audience today.  GULLS  is structured on two levels. There are the scenes happening in ‘real time’ and then there are the scenes  where Bill  speaks directly to the audience, The technique works well except that sometimes I felt  that Mark’s vocabulary and reflections were more advanced than would be the case for someone with a brain injury.

Stapleton’s assured staging, working with her committed actors and a good design team;,period set designer David Pointon with his set of the living room in the background and the beach in the foreground, Dawn  Pointon’s period costumes, Roger Hind and Ruth Lowrie’s lighting design, resulted in a heartfelft telling of Hewett’s story.

If your tastes in theatre amount to wanting to be entcrtained and lightened then GULLS is not for you. if however you like to see a sensitively written drama performed by this stalwart  community theatre, then GULLS is well worth a visit.

Robert Hewett’s  GULLS is playing the Guild Theatre Walz Street Rockdale until Sunday 8th June 2024..


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