The Removalists

Rebecca Varidel
25th Apr 2021

This time capsule of The Removalists, David Williamson's ground-breaking play first staged in 1971 at the then newly formed Nimrod Theatre, clearly evokes a microcosm of the era in which it was written. Some of those lines, those phrases, in the script, you would never hear now. Yet they perfectly capture the period. Can you imagine a bloke sitting on the lounge today, calling out for his wife to bring him a beer? Lordy! But yes this happened, and frequently.

Sadly, the core issues approached as the themes of The Removalists remain.

Abuse of authority. Misogyny. Domestic violence. The constructs of power.

These were contemporary issues in the fast changing culture of the early '70s. And playwright David Williamson brought to the stage, and then screen, what the generations before had ignored.

Today 50 years later, some of these are not only relevant issues to address they are unfortunately still topical in contemporary Australia.

There have been many productions of The Removalists since then, including the Margaret Fink film of 1975 with iconic Australian actors Peter Cummins, John Hargreaves, Kate Fitzpatrick, Jacki Weaver, Martin Harris, Chris Haywood. These are big shoes to fill. And there have been many actors performing these roles in the iconic script.

This current Sydney production of The Removalists at the New Theatre sees Director Johann Walraven leading the creative team. With actors Laurence Coy, Lloyd Allison-Young, Shannon Ryan, Eliza Nicholls, Alfie Gledhill and Xavier Coy, cast and crew do a terrific job at putting their own stamp on the iconic Aussie vernacular, while still holding the identity of the original time and place.

This New Theatre production does a sterling job of capturing our attention, stirring our emotions, and activating our convictions - through punctuated well-paced dialogue and actions with plenty of thoughtful pause. That's impressive in itself, allowing the space to breath.

Most commanding on the stage is Laurence Coy, as the experienced, even wily, police sergeant - as Sergeant Dan Simmonds he incarcerates authority, power and force in every stride and command, forging his will on all the other players, and the chain of events that ensue.

Alfie Gledhill is also noticeable in his role as the husband Kenny Carter, with slovenly repulsiveness as the husband, yet contrasted by arousing concern as roles reverse and he becomes the victim rather than the perpetrator. Eliza Nicholls softly attests to tradition in her role as wife and mother, allowing the subtleties of the changing times to flow into her performance.

Each of the others are well cast and fit their moulds. Each give the characters an edge that keeps us connected. Lloyd Allison-Young shifts gears dramatically from the nervous newcomer to his release of pent up frustrations. Rob, delivered by Xavier Coy, is a stereotypical removalist, yet more - and his flat as a pancake beefcake provides the perfect foil to all the other roles. Shannon Ryan is slick as a perfect blow dry. Or blow job. Take your pick. Without messing a hair out of place, she effortlessly gives over the many flexible vertebrae of the upwardly mobile middle class married sister.

As the play directly presents themes of violence, power and control, and refers to domestic violence, I was actually concerned about how I would cope with these memories from a painful period in my life. Although the portrayal was extremely realistic and it connected, it also kept enough distance. For those that it may make uncomfortable, the program refers to support contacts of Lifeline 15 11 14, the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) and the NSW Domestic Violence Line 1800 656 463 above the Acknowledgement of Country.

The Removalists is an Australian classic, there is no doubt; it's on the school syllabus in this state declaring it so. If you've never seen it, in the words of the famous Whitlam Labor campaign of the following year - "It's Time"!

At New Theatre until 22 May 2021.