The Ishmael Club - Review

Reviewed by John Grant

If the enthusiastic applause at the finale of last night's performance of The Ishmael Club is anything to go by, word of mouth alone should see this play enjoy full houses during its run at the Old Fitz in Woolloomooloo.

The intimate space of this theatre lends itself to the superb direction of Suzanne Millar and the raw and powerful emotions of the talented cast and as they take the audience on the journey of a disparate band of bohemians trying to hold onto their ideals when faced with the realities of life.

Beautifully written by Bill Garner & Sue Gore, The Ishmael Club was inspired by a photo of iconic painter Norman Lindsay with his best mate Bill Dyson who rose to fame as the first Australian war artist.

Against Norman's wishes, Bill courts and then marries Norm's sister Ruby, herself a budding artist. When the newlyweds decide to find fame and fortune in England, Norm pleads to be allowed to accompany them and despite Ruby's misgivings, Bill agrees.

We travel with them through the happy times in Pompei and Rome, however once in the UK, Ruby finally has enough of her brother's inability to accept or respect her new status as Bill's wife. The moment of truth arrives for the trio and the inevitable showdown of marriage versus mateship. This is all being played out as the First World War intensifies around them and inevitably touches all their lives.

The cleverly designed set by Suzanne Millar & John Harrison (complete with Blue Poles inspired drop cloths!) allows the action to begin and end in the very same café where the Ishmael members meet to eat, laugh, fight and flaunt their sexual conquests.

The highlight of this production however is the excellent performances by the four cast members featuring Jasper Garner Gore as the brittle, erratic and comic Norman Lindsay; Richard Hilliar as the immensely likeable Aussie rogue Bill Dyson; Amy Scott-Smith as the sensual, steel magnolia Ruby Lind and Katrina Rautenberg as the whimsical and coquettish café owner Mrs. M.

What: The Ishmael Club (by Bill Garner & Sue Gore)
Where: Old Fitz Theatre 129 Dowling St WOOLLOOMOOLOO
When: Until July 18 . Tues - Sat @ 9pm, Sun @ 7pm
Tickets: $22