The Theatreguide.London Review
Day Of The Year
Finborough Theatre Spring 2015
Alan Seymour's drama caused some scandal when it first appeared in Australia in 1960, and while it is easy to see why, today the play can't escape seeming quaint and old-fashioned, weaknesses that director Wayne Harrison's somewhat tentative production cannot disguise.
Seymour shocked Australian censors and audiences in two ways, by realistically depicting class divisions in a society that prided itself in being classless and by questioning one of Australia's most cherished traditions, ANZAC Day.
The son of a working-class family has, largely through the determination and sacrifices of his parents, gone to university and finds himself at odds with their cultural crudeness, limited vision and unthinking conservatism.
In particular, he and his posh new girlfriend are determined to debunk the nation's celebration of the anniversary of the Gallipoli battle, a remembrance day that annually begins with memorial services and parades but quickly degenerates into an ugly and pathetic booze-up.
You may have spotted part of the dramatic problem already. However new the story was to Australia, plays and novels about the working class boy whose education puts him at odds with his parents were, even by 1960, a staple in British and Irish literature, even to the point of being clichés (Remember the Monty Python parody sketch about the playwright's son who wanted to go down the mines?).
So, through no fault of Alan Seymour's, the strongest impression this half of his play gives is that it certainly took Australia a while to catch up to the rest of the world's discovery of this particular generation gap.
The ANZAC Day plot line is more successful, partly because it's news to us, but largely because playwright, director and actors put the real focus on the human story – the mix of ardent idealism and callow egotism in the young couple's conviction that they are in the right and doing right, and a sympathetic awareness that the older generation's illusions may be all they have and should not be too blithely cast away.
Those moments of balanced insight sharing criticism and empathy equally among the characters are the strongest parts of Wayne Harrison's production.
But too many of the other scenes are limited or marred by rushed speaking or un-nuanced characterisations, so that even with an Australian director and a cast that is four-fifth Australian a solid sense of time and place is only fitfully suggested.
Review - The One Day Of The Year - Finborough Theatre 2015