Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the opening night of A
Stretch of the Imagination was how few people turned out to
see the 25th anniversary production of this classic
Australian play by Jack Hibberd.
On the other hand it was the kind of reception that perfectly
suited the timbre of the play and its churlish antisocial
protagonist Monk ONeill. Monk is a complex character with
many depths, but with his misery, prickliness and obsession with
his aging, ailing body, hes hardly the poster boy for a
A Stretch of the Imagination is an existentialist play
about death, and carries the palpable stench of regret - for a
life wasted and for a life lived to the full that is now over. It
is a work of bitter celebration. Monk ONeill lives in
isolation and simplicity in the bush, and he divides his day by
reliving the past and laying it to rest, noting the failings of
his body, and railing against the inexorable passing of time.
The interesting thing about Monk is that hes not just
fading away to oblivion in a nursing home. Monk attacks aging and
death with the same intensity and vigor that has marked the rest
of his life; Hibberd wrote this play 25 years ago with the energy
of youth, and Monk is a vibrant, demanding antihero.
This production directed by Greg Carroll and performed by
Peter Hosking, does justice to this extremely demanding play.
Hosking portrays Monk as a monstrous figure, an emotional
Frankenstein who leers and leaps around the stage and dives into
the audience. His physicality is tremendous, and Hoskings
brave, vulnerable performance acts as a perfect counterpoint to
the grotesquerie of the character.
The set is simple and stylised, featuring only a red curtain,
a backlit screen , and a large pot of urine. The screen serves as
Monks cabin and when he enters only his looming shadow can
be seen, a device that works well on both an aesthetic and
symbolic level. The music and lighting, by Joe Dolce and Greg
Carroll respectively, are both superb and complementary to the
A Stretch of the Imagination is a play that may have
found its time; many of the people in the audience saw the
original production, and there is no doubt that Monks
journey on stage was given extra relevance and meaning by that
very real sense of so much time having passed since the play was