09 June 2011

Review: The Gift

The Gift
Melbourne Theatre Company
2 June 2011
Sumner Theatre
to 9 July 2011
www.mtc.com.au



We must thank playwrights who show just how hard it is to be wealthy, middle aged and white. It can't be easy, especially when nasty povo commy bloggers create sites like White Whine or Stuff White People Like. How dare they make fun of things they don't understand. It must be really horrible seeing satire on your iPad2. So it's wonderful that the MTC is there to assure their subscribers that it's OK; it really is OK to be better at spending than making money.

The Gift is another poor rich us story. Dammit, they have feelings too!

The design is so similar to last year's production of David Williamson's Let the Sunshine that I had to check that I hadn't been duped into another night with our national treasure. The characters weren't too different either, but the relief of Joanna Murray-Smith's fresh wit took away the fear.

Sadie and Ed are at a very expensive resort for their 25th anniversary gesture. Naturally, there are jokes about firing their personal butler and when will hotels learn that people don't like paying $9 for a box of mini-bar of Pringles. I find it so much easier to stay in cockroach-infested hostels just to avoid this kind of stress. Anyway, they meet Chloe and Martin, a hip young artists couple who won their getaway in a competition. Away from home, sculling posh wine and mojitos (really?) and clearly attracted to each other...

No swinging isn't middle class enough for them. They talk about the value of art (it's good) and take a boat trip.  And yes there's a literal storm to strengthen the metaphorical one. Actually the program blurb tells you everything that happens in Act 1 (why?), so Act 2 is about firing all those early foreshadowed empty wombs.

There's quite a moral dilemma presented, but not explored. In Act 1, the rich couple talk about watching other people and making up stories. The Gift feels like watching without being involved.  The observation is astute – we recognise these people – but don't know them enough to care what choices they make or feel any relevance to our lives (apart from the Pringles).

Richard Piper, Heather Bolton, Matt Dytynski and Elizabeth Debicki are all terrific performers and Murray-Smith's gorgeous wit shines, but I don't care what happens to these people. So if you see a post on White Whine saying, "My free theatre ticket didn't make me care as much as Masterchef does", you'll know who it's from.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com

Photo by Jeff Busby


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