Possibly in the most beautiful setting of any theatre in the world, Sydney’s Wharf Theatre saw its first performances 30 years ago. On 17 January 1985, the Sydney Theatre Company opened Shorts on the Wharf , a season of 10 one-act plays by both Australian and international playwrights with 10 different directors and 9 actors. Now, 30 years later, a new season has been opened by the STC with a play written in the 1980s in Melbourne and not previously performed in Sydney: After Dinner by Andrew Bovell, now one of Australia’s most acclaimed writers for stage and screen.
Shorts on the Wharf opened with Kate Fitzpatrick alone on the stage. After Dinner opens with Glenn Hazeldine alone on the stage. It is a play about loneliness and the fear of it but it is uproariously funny, especially as performed by a virtually perfect cast. Wharf One, with 300-odd seats and maximum intimacy, is the ideal theatre. It is wonderful to see a serious company present an early, indeed first, success of a serious writer (of Lantana, When the Rain Stops Falling, The Secret River etc); a play that is unashamedly entertaining.
That first season of Shorts was a deliberate exercise in research and development of both writers and directors. Meanwhile in Melbourne writers like Andrew Bovell were making their own luck, with great success. The play comes with the wry advice ‘Sexual themes’; there’s certainly a lot of talk about sex, especially male sexual inadequacy, but the audience justifiably loved it.
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