If Bill Collins is Mr Movies, Roger Gimblett, in person, is Mr Theatre. His every gesture betrays him as a man addicted to the boards. And now, under the guise of Roger Gimblett Porductions, he presents a ‘small play’, Tant Pis. And here I present my small review.

He mightn’t be Oscar Wilde, but this award-winning playwright probably cuts it as Oscar Milde, in this world premiering comedy, also produced and directed by same. Tant Pis (in case your French is rudimentary, it means ‘too bad!’) is from his own pen, which would appear to have quite a perky nib. Yes, it’s somewhat self-indulgent and a little pretentious; veritably bursting with knowing literary references and allusions to the trappings and pitfalls of the theatre. Indeed, if Capriccio is an opera about opera, Tant Pis is a play about theatre.

As you might expect from someone well-versed in such, there is a great deal of bitter-and-twistedness about writing, what gets produced and why, the decline of craft and the state of the art generally. But it’s all good-humoured, with tongue firmly in cheek. An example is the reflection the last thing one wants is to be surprised in the theatre; if one wants to be surprised, one should stay home. Given much of the theatre I’ve seen in recent times, I know what he’s talking about. And we’re warned, cogently, that there are a lot of homosexuals in theatre. Who would’ve guessed? Go figure!

Gimblett has assembled the kind of cast that reminds one just how many good actors, of all ages, operate outside the stratosphere of Sydney’s main stages. International sex symbol (according to his bio) Patrick Magee is ‘The Director’, who may or may not have inadvertently been manipulated into assisting a suicide of maternal import. Kerrie Rowe is ‘The Woman’, cut down in her prime and in the middle of interviewing ‘The Director’. Seb McWang is ‘The Actor’, who the rest take for granted and discount intellectually, based on his pretty boy looks and immaculate physique; but is he really that clueless? Mark Langham is Harold, archetype of the Beeb-biased elocutionĀ old school, who agrees people do terrible things for money: “I once did six weeks of Home and Away.” Finally, Harriet Gordon-Anderson, barely out of Newtown High School of the Performing Arts, is ‘The Actress’, love interest and possible sibling of ‘The Director’. It’s a convoluted murder mystery in the way of Agatha Christie, but is the victim really dead, or is it theatre that lies bleeding?

All are more than creditable, with Langham proving a particular treat as the effete multisexual ‘acTOR’.

Tant Pis might be a ‘small play’, but with this cast, this sense of fun, some sharp lines and something provocative to say about theatre, at one hour it’s a small amount of time well-spent.

The details: Tant Pis has a final show on July 12 at the Exchange Hotel in Balmain.

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