Theatre | The Business | Ken Longworth

MICAELA Elphick wasn’t surprised when she read Australian writer Jonathan Gavin’s black comedy The Business and learnt that it was based on a Russian play written in 1909.

The Business shows the universality of human behaviour, with the characters involved in scheming and manipulation, and displaying greed as they seek power,” she said. “But it’s also a very Australian play.”

Wollombi’s Valley Artists is staging The Business for a two-week season at Laguna Hall, Laguna, from Friday, March 24. Michaela Elphick is directing the play after recommending it to the theatre company.

The Business is set in the outer suburbs of an Australian city, with the members of a family gathering at the parental home because the husband, father and brother is near death. He and wife, Van, established a company that became a success and the children are eager to get their share of the assets.

Van, a member of an immigrant family, has worked hard in the 30 years since it was set up, so she  is understandably unhappy to learn at the start of the play that her husband has only left her an annual allowance in his will. The children have mixed views about what to do with their share of his money, with one of the sons, who likes displaying his bare chest, hoping to buy a yacht. His younger brother suffers from a physical deformity, and their sister, who was virtually booted out of the house by the father over her choice of spouse, is determined to ensure that their mother gets reasonable treatment. The other characters include the dying man’s brother, who is involved in a sexual relationship with one of the son’s wives, and the family company’s business manager, who is supportive of Van.  

The company’s future is under threat because a national television program has criticised it for an injury-related OH and S breach.

Jonathan Gavin, whose writings include episodes of the television series Offspring, adapted Maxim Gorky’s Vassa Zheleznova (the name of the central character) for Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre in 2011. The storyline includes substantial changes from Gorky’s work. 

The Valley Artists cast includes Karen Toohey as Van, Rod Sinnamon and Dain Southwell as her sons, Karen Jones as the daughter, Patricia Wallis and Sophie Cook as the wives, Chris Dibb as Van’s brother-in-law, and Peter Firminger as the business manager.

The show has performances at Laguna Hall nightly at 8pm from March 24 to March 26, and from March 29 to April 1. Tickets: $25, concession $20.

Bookings: valleyartists.org, Wollombi General Store, and GNTP, Laguna.     

FAMILY TIES: Dain Southwell as older son, Simon, and Penelope Wallis, as his wife, Natalie, in The Business.

FAMILY TIES: Dain Southwell as older son, Simon, and Penelope Wallis, as his wife, Natalie, in The Business.

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