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It felt like 17 years

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Set in 1953, Summer of The Seventeenth Doll begins when two sugar cane cutters, Barney and Roo, return to Melbourne for five months of the good life with two local barmaids, continuing in a 17 year tradition. This year though it’s different: one of the girls is married, friendships are strained and everyone’s getting older.

The Doll has been staged in various forms countless times since it debuted in 1955. At this point there’s not much new anyone can bring to the table. So why stage it again?

These days the persistent myth of Australian as the bushman is still relentlessly thrust in our faces like an unwanted plate of BBQ lamb chops. Culturally and historically The Doll remains a valuable play and has the potential to be a decent nights entertainment.

Is MTC’s presentation of Belvoir’s production valuable or entertaining?

It’s an incredibly well lit production. The lighting design combined with some olfactory stimulation in the first act created a wonderful sense of morning. I noticed how well lit the stage was because what was happening on it did little to hold my attention.

This production is a poorly directed, over acted and unengaging piece of theatre that inspires little empathy for its main characters and left me wishing I were somewhere else. Several audience members around me shared that wish and did not return for the third act, which climaxed in a cringe worthy shouting match complete with crawling on the floor.

The huge stage was distracting. There were several times where I could not understand the dialogue through the over stated Australia accents. Key moments such as Roo’s confession that he wasn’t man enough to admit Dowd had him bettered were limp and unconvincing.

Supporting actors Eloise Winestock and TJ Power did their bit to bring some life to things and the times that Robin Nevin was on stage were inspiring and I was briefly lifted from my boredom, lost in the performance. Every actor had their moments but it never lasted long enough to keep me from feeling like I was sitting in a theatre watching some people trying to perform a play.


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