A Man With Five Children

Theatre
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A Man With Five Children
Photograph: Helen White

Nick Enright's late-’90s drama about reality TV is revived by Darlinghurst Theatre Company

Director Anthony Skuse helms this elegant production of Nick Enright's prescient play from 1999, with a cast of nine. 

Enright's play pitches its tent amongst five Australians who are documented via annual reality TV specials from childhood into adulthood, and the director who documents – and in some ways shapes – their journey.

A Man With Five Children was fuelled by contemporaneous media discussion about Big Brother and the controversy over Dennis O'Rourke's documentary The Good Woman of Bangkok, during which the filmmaker was sleeping with his subject. 

But the play also seems to foreshadow the major themes of media discussion around reality TV over the last 15 years: the manufacturing of drama, personality and fame, and the ethical quandaries therein.

For a contemporary audience, for whom these ideas are de rigeur, the play works because it has real emotional heft: this is not an opinion piece masquerading as theatre; this is drama with something to say.

None of the characters are mere cyphers; not evenfilmmaker Gerald is a villain – just a man whose good intentions are undone by a fatal personality flaw, an obsession, and his feelings. 

The weight of maintaining the play's emotional energy falls to the cast, who are uniformly excellent. Elegent use of live-camera projections and pre-recorded footage also makes the stage a dynamic space, so you're never at risk of "tuning out", so to speak. This production is thoroughly engrossing from start to finish. 

By: Dee Jefferson

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