LIVE: Deft touch of the everyday

MAITLAND-born playwright Nick Enright showed when Daylight Saving premiered that he had the knack of using everyday situations as the basis for warm and engaging comedies.

The bulk of the play’s action takes place on a Saturday night in March that marks the end of daylight saving in NSW.

A lonely wife, whose husband is overseas trying to get the cocky young tennis star he manages out of a bad-behaviour mess, has a phone call from an American who was her first boyfriend.

He’s on a brief business trip to Sydney and saw her interviewed on television, in her role as a successful restaurateur.

Their conversation leads to an invitation for him to have a moonlit dinner at her home. But as so often happens in life, things don’t go according to the plan that they sentimentally share.

Newcastle Theatre Company is staging Daylight Saving at its Lambton venue  with  performances also at Lovedale’s Adina Vineyard on February 8 and 9.

For director Noel Grivas, the rehearsal period has been a trip down memory lane.

When NTC (then Newcastle Repertory) first produced the play in the early 1990s, he played Josh, the boyfriend the lonely Felicity had when she was an exchange student in the United States.

Grivas has drawn together a cast of familiar and new faces.

David Gubbay plays husband Tom, Tracey Ebbetts is Felicity (addressed by everyone as Flick), Duncan Gordon is the self-centred tennis player Jason, Amanda Woolford is Stephanie, a stressed neighbour of Tom and Flick, Lisa Chamberlain is Flick’s constantly visiting mother Bunty, and Phil McKewin is the still dashing Josh.

Nick Enright had a broad group of friends whose experiences he drew on, in a fictionalised form, for character and plot developments.

One of these, when he wrote Daylight Saving in 1988, was a well-known woman restaurateur who, like Flick, had a waterside establishment north of Sydney.

Flick’s evening with Josh is continually interrupted by phone calls from two warring male employees at her restaurant and this element was probably contributed by Enright’s catering friend.

David Gubbay and Duncan Gordon are full of praise for the playwright’s deft drawing of the characters.

“Tom and Flick have been married for seven years and both lead busy lives, so they haven’t had time to consider having a family,” Gubbay said.

“Tom has rushed off to California to rescue Jason, forgetting that the Saturday he’s away is his wedding anniversary.

“He has little involvement with his meddlesome mother-in-law. When she arrives, it is Flick she talks to. And he tries to avoid next-door neighbour Stephanie, because she is obsessed with and stresses over her love life.

“In one of Nick Enright’s subtle jokes, it is revealed that she is a stress manager.”

Duncan Gordon notes that all the characters are full of themselves, with the relationship between Tom and the 21-year-old Jason being very volatile.

“Jason is very arrogant. He’s an immovable barrier,” he said.

David Gubbay refers sympathetically to his character as “poor old Tom”.

“He has to wear the frustrations of Jason’s antics, as well as coming home to see a man he’s never met before who clearly has eyes for his wife.” 

Nick Enright won a Gold Awgie and best new play Awgie in 1990 for Daylight Saving. His other plays include A Property of the Clan, which looks at issues raised by the murder of schoolgirl Leigh Leigh on Stockton beach in 1989, and the script for The Boy from Oz, the musical about singer Peter Allen.

When he died at age 52 in 2003, he was writing a play set in the Maitland of his youth. 

Daylight Saving opens at the NTC Theatre, 90 De Vitre Street, Lambton, on Saturday, January 19, and plays Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, until February 2; plus Sunday matinees on January 20 and 27, at 2pm. Tickets: $28, concession $22. Bookings: 49524958 (3pm to 6pm weekdays). It also plays at Adina Vineyard, Lovedale Road, Lovedale, on Friday, February 8, and Saturday, February 9, with a choice of show only or dinner and show. Bookings: 49307473.

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