Is Don, Is Bad

Last week I described how much I enjoyed Don Parties On, David Williamson’s follow up to Don’s Party. My pleasure was in its unintended exposure of the left as hypocritical and morally repellant. These are so seldom shown you have to take your opportunities when they come. 

The play gives permission to laugh at a man dying of emphysema because he’s rich and votes for the Libs. There is the honest confession of a Labor Parliamentarian who had gone through years of clinical depression brought on by an abortion, a bit of theatre so far outside standard issue left agenda that there is literally nothing comparable anywhere. When Don’s son decides to run off and leave his wife and children, he is lectured on the need to stay together for the kids. And finally, Don’s grubby wish to run off and leave his wife of forty years because he has never lost his desire for a woman he had had an affair with decades before, is given ultra sympathetic treatment. 

On two counts we find conservative values being portrayed without hesitation (anti-abortion and pro-marriage) and on two the laughs come easy because of the audience’s desire to revenge itself psychologically on someone with conservative values, on that one and only Liberal voter in the room. 

In my view, if you find the play actually funny in a great-night-at-the-theatre sort of way, there is a moral screw loose somewhere. My enjoyment was mainly focused on watching the reptilian values of the various leftists on display, who could do no wrong so far as the audience was concerned because all-but-one of the characters were Labor voters if not actually partisans of the Greens. 

So to this, let me add what I have discovered this week. The play had been turned down by the Socialists, Trots and Comms for production in Sydney. According to Miranda Divine

It is an indictment of our taxpayer-subsidised theatre industry that Don Parties On, which, despite the critics, ended up a smash hit at the Melbourne Theatre Company, was rejected by the Sydney Theatre Company, whose artistic directors are Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton.

Instead, Williamson had to hunt around for an independent commercial producer to take it on. Enter Rachel Healy, who had just left her post as Opera House performing arts director. She found a private investor and put a chunk of her own money into the production in Sydney for 21 performances. 

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton, I need hardly point out, have not confided in me as to why they turned the play down, but knowing the left as I do, the segment on abortion would have been something that no one who understands their agenda could tolerate. The bits on the sanctity of marriage might also have been a bit much. 

But it does impress me that what was near on guaranteed to be a money spinner would be rejected for straight out ideological reasons. Money isn’t everything, specially if you are subsidised by the state to the tune of tens of thousands a year 

So how have Sydney audiences responded to this play with its blend of Tony Abbott morality on marriage and abortion combined with its grotesque display of laughing at the sick while willing a man to abandon his wife of many years. 

At the opening night last week of David Williamson’s latest play, Don Parties On, the Sydney audience was laughing so much at times the actors had to repeat their lines….

During the curtain call and extended applause, Garry McDonald, who plays Don, gestured at Williamson from the stage. The applause ratcheted up so much that Williamson got to his feet and waved at the cheering crowd. Bob Hawke – one of a dozen politicians in the audience – even stood to applaud the maligned playwright.

They loved it in Sydney, not so much down here. “What a difference it was to the thin-lipped, crossed-armed reaction on Melbourne’s opening night.” Those thin-lipped, crossed-armed types here in Melbourne may have actually understood, in the same way as it was understood by Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton, that Williamson was trampling their most precious values into the ground.

What they were so rapturous about in Sydney I can understand with perfect ease, but it does not speak highly of the moral values these people must hold. 

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