Review: Cruise Control
David Williamson is a prolific playwright who’s had some great characters tumble out of his head. Quite a few of them haven’t been good or even likeable people.
From Sergeant Simmonds in The Removalists to Mike McCord in Emerald City, they were nasty but memorable pieces of work. In this, his latest play, three couples find themselves in marital strife on the high seas. One of the six is novelist and sociopath Richard Manton. For me, he’s the best thing about Cruise Control. A deliciously loathsome, perfectly English villain, here played brilliantly by Felix Williamson.
Designer Marissa Dale-Johnson captures a classy cruise ship on the Ensemble’s postage stamp sized stage where the husbands and wives can get ugly. Inspired by a transatlantic trip Williamson took where he was stuck with incompatible dinner companions for seven nights straight, it is fitting the centre piece of Dale-Johnson’s set is a laid dining table on loud carpet. By the way, what’s with luxury liner carpets? I can’t imagine those bright, swirling colours do much for seasick passengers, but I digress.
Every meal on this voyage turns into a small war. The fore mentioned Richard, who these days is a more successful womaniser than writer, mercilessly ridicules his editor wife Fiona (Michelle Doake) and is condescending to the everyone else.
Before too long, it is the rest of the table versus Dick. Lining up against him is brash Australian surf wear entrepreneur Darren Brodie (Peter Phelps) and his better half, Ascham educated Imogen (Helen Dallimore). Also dying to take a swing at him is an elderly dentist from New York named Sol Wasserman (Henri Szeps) and his shrewd wife Silky (Kate Fitzpatrick).
Williamson, who directs his own play, does a fine job, especially in the first act, where the snappy retorts fly back and forth as the Dom Perignon flows and the personalities establish themselves. If the story’s lightness becomes apparent by the second act at least the strong cast holds our attention. It’s a pity though that the tension dissipates and predictability creeps in by the end of it.
Still I walked out of the theatre carrying Williamson’s chillingly hilarious performance with me.
A harmless diversion. I was a happy stowaway.
Cruise Control runs until June 14 at Ensemble Theatre, June 24-25 at The Concourse, Chatswood.Bookings: 02 9929 0644 or www.ensemble.com.au