This production celebrates the silver anniversary of Jack
Hibberds extraordinary gift to the Australian theatre, A
Stretch of the Imagination. It is good to know that in the
words of the plays would-be immortal anti-hero Monk
ONeill, "the piston of life pumps again".
This play can be seen as Jack Hibberds version of The
Tempest, for it seems to sum up all that he knows and loves
about the theatre. Monk ONeills island, like
Prosperos, may seem uninhabited but it is actually
possessed by many voices telling of many adventures, or are they
Monks magic is as perverse as Prosperos too, for
he demands that we join him as spectators of his approaching
death. Hibberd liberates actor and audience and enables both to
enjoy the farce or pathos - whichever is appropriate, through
irony and parody.
Monk is an almost impossibly virtuoso role. For it was Monk
ONeill who first swam the waterless Lake Eyre, it was he
who was dux of classics at Xavier College and he again who
hobnobbed with Proust at Montparnesse etc, etc, etc. His mind and
body encompass any number of apparently autonomous entities that
contend in ceaseless argument, moving anarchically from one
scenario to another, pausing only briefly to "park the
Malvern Star against a flying buttress".
In this production Peter Hoskings Monk is besieged,
battered but rarely bettered as the "cyclops in his
cave", his voice and body matching the plays demanding
range, both physically, emotionally, and geographically. There is
also an element of German cabaret in the performance which suits
the moments of macabre.
Peter Carrigans deceptively simple setting provides some
clever behind the scenes interludes.
The best testimony of this remarkable play and its unique
character is that it stands out as one of the benchmarks
available for Australian male acting talent. Why the major State
companies have not presented the best of our mature actors in
this role says nothing for our enterprise