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A Man With Five Children

When director Michael Apted embarked on his famous "7-Up" documentary series, he sought to prove the adage, "Give me the child until he is 7 and I will give you the man."

When director Michael Apted embarked on his famous “7-Up” documentary series, he sought to prove the adage, “Give me the child until he is 7 and I will give you the man.”

“A Man With Five Children” sets out to do the opposite. Protagonist Gerry, a documentary filmmaker, persuades five sets of parents to allow their tots to be interviewed annually for a TV show screened each New Year’s Day.

His premise — “Give me the child at 7 and let’s see where he goes” — readies the audience for the soap opera that unfurls.

Play, by “Lorenzo’s Oil” scribe Nick Enright, was conceived in 1998 as an exercise for students at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and has been well-honed since. Original focus was the lives of the five children: an Aboriginal girl; a wealthy Asian-Australian boy; the high-strung daughter of motivated professional parents; a working-class boy; and a girl from an uneducated world.

Come 2002 and the focus of the STC show is less about how the doc affects the lives of the children and more about their impact on the filmmaker’s life.

Charismatic Steve Bisley has made a confident return to the stage after several years playing a TV cop on popular drama “Water Rats.” Well cast as the idealistic documaker who wants to just “witness and record” the lives of the five children, thesp nevertheless could play out Gerry’s transition from puppeteer and chief protagonist in the children’s lives with greater subtlety.

Genevieve O’Reilly’s portrayal of the high-strung Susannah is the best of an otherwise uneven cast, which will likely settle during the season.

Veteran legit, TV and film director George Ogilvie (“Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”) has seamlessly woven video and photographic projections around the action, which takes place on an effectively minimalist stage.

A Man With Five Children

Wharf 1 Theater, Sydney; 315 seats; $28 (A$54)

  • Production: A Sydney Theater Co. presentation of a play in two acts by Nick Enright. Directed by George Ogilvie.
  • Crew: Sets, Stephen Curtis; costumes, Anna French; lighting, Rory Dempster; sound, Sam Petty; music, Alan John; video presentation, Gruchy Prods.; assistant director, Michael Bates. Opened Jan. 9, 2002. Reviewed Jan. 11. Running time: 2 HOURS, 35 MIN.
  • Cast: Gerry - Steve Bisley<br> Cam - Travis McMahon<br> Jessie - Margaret Harvey<br> Zoe - Kate Mulvany<br> Roger - Kenneth Moraleda<br> Susannah - Genevieve O'Reilly<br> Annie - Justine Clarke<br> Theo - Arky Michael<br> Doug - Anthony Weigh<br>