Review: ‘Victory — Choices in Reaction’

Flanked by some of the best actors working in Australia, Judy Davis is radiant as the widow of a murdered polemicist in Howard Barker's obscure 20-year-old play "Victory." It's just a pity the play is so ambitious and ultimately befuddling.

Flanked by some of the best actors working in Australia, Judy Davis is radiant as the widow of a murdered polemicist in Howard Barker’s obscure 20-year-old play “Victory.” It’s just a pity the play is so ambitious and ultimately befuddling.

The 36 characters are played by just 11 thesps, many of whom are onstage most of the time, making it difficult to track the different characters. “Victory” had the audience diving for their programs at intermission, eager to make sense of the intense and complicated first 80 minutes.

Play is set in the 17th-century English court of Charles I amid the rise of Puritanism. Davis is the widow of a polemicist trying to survive the new laissez-faire society. Play draws parallels with Thatcher’s Britain that lack relevance for audiences today.

The ensemble turned in excellent work: Peter Carroll’s civil servant was hilarious, Marta Dusseldorp’s mistress a treat. Davis’ husband, Colin Friels, shone as the monarch.

But Davis, who shared directing chores, was unquestionably the star. It’s been 18 years since she last trod the STC boards, in “Hedda Gabler,” but her technique is intact. Davis’ authoritive characterization and resonant voice reinforce her status as the godmother of Oz thesps.

Victory -- Choices in Reaction

Wharf 1 Theater, Sydney; 324 seats; A$63 ($48) top

Production

A Sydney Theater Co. presentation of a play in two acts by Howard Barker. Directed by Judy Davis and Benjamin Winspear.

Creative

Sets, Peter England; costumes, Tess Schofield; lighting, Nick Schlieper; music, Paul Charlier. Opened, reviewed April 20, 2004. Running time: 2 HOURS, 45 MIN.

Cast

With: John Gaden, Syd Brisbane, Martin Jacobs, Chris Haywood, Glenn Hazeldine, Colin Friels, Judy Davis, Peter Carroll, David Field, Marta Dusseldorp, Genevieve Lemon.
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