Toy Symphony” triumphantly overcomes the Oz entertainment industry’s constant lament — that projects for film and stage are fast-tracked into production without sufficient development. Michael Gow’s first script in a decade is superbly crafted and thoroughly textured, springing to life under the tight but playful direction of Company B topper Neil Armfield.
Focusing on a man in the grip of writer’s block who attempts to come to terms with his past in order to better face his future, the play features a terrific cast, extensively utilized, and allows Company B to ends its banner year — which included bumper profits from hit political satire “Keating! The Musical” — on a high note.
Gow appears to have borrowed from his own life to create the story of Roland (Richard Roxburgh), a drug-addled playwright rendered professionally mute following a legal victory over a woman who accused him of plagiarism. The longtime artistic director of Queensland Theater Company, Gow won a similar battle over his last play, “Sweet Phoebe.”
In therapy sessions, Roland recalls real and imagined characters from his childhood, including stern but benevolent school teacher Mrs. Walkham (Monica Maughan), who urges her young patient to channel his fertile imagination into a play, which he calls “Toy Symphony.”
Gow’s play jumps about — from being bullied as a youth to becoming a bully himself in adulthood — with numerous threads and scenes creating a full picture of Roland. If, indeed, the work is autobiographical, Gow is fearless in exposing his ugly side.
For the cast, “Toy Symphony” is exhausting stuff, with Russell Dykstra, Justine Clarke and Guy Edmonds each juggling three substantial characters plus a handful of costumed walk-throughs, such as Alexander the Great. The superb attention to detail in the performances and the character-defining costumes fill the bare gray stage more intriguingly than a fancy set could have.