Jack of Hearts

John Lavarack
6th Feb 2016

David Williamson has just premiered his 50th play, Jack of Hearts, now showing at Ensemble Theatre. The tall man was there (like me, he’s 6’8”) and got a standing ovation from an auditorium packed with Sydney’s theatre community.

We were bound to love the show but that sounds like faint praise. It was a delightful romp, high Sydney farce from a man who is undisputed master of his art.

It is a tale of up-and-comers hitting the wall and digging their ways through. These are people learning to live with themselves and their disappointing other halves.

Chris Taylor and Craig Reucassel, of the Chaser team, played their first substantial roles in live theatre. While their inexperience showed, they were well served by Williamson’s sure hand as writer and director. In fact, with Reucaccel and Taylor, there was a Chaser-like lightheartedness in their shared delivery that served the play well. The action clipped along at a steady pace and never missed a beat. As the play progressed, Taylor filled out in the central role of Jack. He projected the poignancy of his character’s journey, from bored ex-lawyer, to jilted lover, to bringer of mischief.

He was supported by an impressive cast. This included Paige Gardiner as Emma, Jack’s wife. She played the frustrated ambition of a woman in love with men who cannot match her quick intelligence. Brooke Satchwell was hilarious and magnificent as her best friend, Denys, turning from purse-lipped witness of Emma’s infidelity to roaring avenger as she falls foul of cheating ways. Peter Mochrie played Carl, TV host and narcissist exercising too much power over others. He delivered it subtly; the outrageousness of his emotional demands was tempered by a sense of his character’s ego barely held together.

My plus-one, Rebecca Varidel and I, enjoyed a superb meal beforehand at Bayly’s - downstairs from the theatre, with stunning views out to Sydney Harbour. I dare say that the dinner and show would make for a perfect date. The caveat is that any dining couple later will end up either wincing or laughing hard at the painful contradictions that human relations bring forth.

And laugh hard we did. You cannot fail to enjoy this show. It entertains as it unpicks the seams of our delusions of love, ambition and honour that leave us with something beautifully woven as a play. Bravi.

Jack of Hearts is on at Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli until Saturday April 2nd. Production photos by Clare Hawley.

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