A thinking man’s view on life

How could a Down Under ‘70’s playwright have been so sophisticated? Maybe the question should be why Australia does not produce more richly cerebral plays 25 years later.

The production of A Stretch of the Imagination celebrates the silver anniversary of the play’s first production at The Pram Factory in March 1972.

The play’s only character - irascible, crusty monk O’Neill - is an elderly hermit. Peter Hosking’s body contorts to portray the brassy vulgar and decrepit hobo who grows tomatoes and chops down the only tree at his campsite. The next moment he grows big-chested into the bombastic pretentious man-about-town complaining bitterly to a waiter about every possible aspect of his posh restaurant.

Our man Monk has been a "dux of classics at St Xavier’s" at the turn of the century, cycled through the French countryside on his Malvern Star in 1912, married three times and all but raped by his best friend’s wife. His monologue is a series of fantastic reminiscences, memories and imagings comically juxtaposed with the immediate narrow parameters of a hermit’s life. A philosopher, he is familiar with the Greek classics, Baudelaire, Proust, and Homer. The next second he is humping the air remembering a particular romantic encounter.

Monk is perhaps as much a ‘90s man as he was a product of the’70s.

If you never see another play this year, go and experience this one and keep it as a yardstick


Reviewed by Barbara Biggs

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