What are the lengths to which people will go to get what they want? What does it mean to be a mother? These are the pivotal questions posed in the acerbic drama, Petty, Cash, a world premiere work written by prolific young playwright Thomas Ian Doyle.
Centrelink has earmarked a wad of cash for development of either a “peace garden” or a library in a 19-storey public high rise building. It is doing so to give power back to the people, only what the agency didn’t count on was the war zone that develops. It is up to the residents to decide which way to go and they are divided along military lines, determined to win at all costs. Their tactics become more and more militant and outrageous, with exaggeration used for comic effect, as well as dramatic impact.
In the play, it is four against four. On the one side a mother and her anti-establishment, vitriolic and downright nasty 16-year-old son, a cynical diabetic without legs and a feisty lady of the night. On the other, the self professed leader of the group who wants to galvanise the others into action … into talking tactics. With her is a man suffering horrendous tooth pain and a pacifist, along with a new mother trying to come to terms with a constantly needy child. The two sides square off against each other, but also face internal turmoil. And make no mistake, they are dirty fighters, not averse to doing what needs to be done – a little bout of food poisoning perhaps or maybe even peeing on enemy territory? The day’s takings will come up and blood will be spilt.
The busy set, deliberately untidy and full of “stuff”, includes a cramped kitchen on the left and a lounge room on the right. In a clever move and in keeping with the treatment of the material, two directors are used – Gabrielle Savrone working with those wanting a garden and Carolyn Rose Dawes the library advocates. In large part I was intrigued and involved, although I felt the play laboured towards the end. It has a running time of just over an hour, but the pacing wasn’t quite right the night I saw it.
The talent comes straight from The Owl and Cat Acting Academy, having just completed an eight-week acting course. Clearly they have learnt a great deal in that time. Their enthusiasm and energy was apparent from the get go. Petty, Cash is playing at 34 Swan Street, Richmond until 23rd February.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Suddenly Last Summer (Red Stitch) – theatre review
- Escaped Alone (Red Stitch) – theatre review
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – theatre review
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television