Review: The One Day of the Year
By Jamie Bolton-Debbage
Founded in 1980, the multi-award winning Finborough Theatre presents plays and music theatre, concentrated exclusively on vibrant new writing and unique discoveries from the 19th and 20th centuries. Behind the scenes the Finborough continues to discover and develop a new generation of theatre makers through their literary team and their programmes for both interns and Resident Assistant Directors.
We went to the Finborough to watch The One Day of The Year by Alan Seymour, set in the 1960’s Australia. It focuses on the commemoration and celebration of Anzac day and centres around an embittered serviceman Alf, and the tensions that surround him and his university student son, Hughie. These tensions come to a head on Anzac day when Hughie helps his girlfriend Jan to write an article criticising Anzac day and the behaviour of ex-servicemen.
This version of the play is directed by Wayne Harrison and it was directed well. I worry when going to the theatre on the pretext that I am watching a play set in another country, subsequently leading to faux and slightly awkward accents. I was relieved to see that at least the majority of the cast were native Australians which added to the authenticity and acting of the piece. It was real, which is what you needed for such material in such an intimate space. The cast were all capable and as Mark Little’s version of Alf carried the piece well, it was also magnificently supported by Fiona Press’ Dot.
I didn’t know much about Anzac day but as it is the 70th anniversary of V.E. day this year I could see a parallel. In fact there were a lot of issues raised in the play that would be relevant to a British audience of today: the decline of ‘insular’ nationalism, globalisation, generations and class. The play at many points is a discussion on Australia’s role in the world, the maligned campaign at Gallipoli, and what the past means as well as the future. The ‘future’ seen in Jan and Hughie is well acted and although there are no answers given, one can’t help but feel the youngsters went too far. A particularly moving scene was with Paul Haley’s Wacka, a true Gallipoli veteran, and although you knew it was coming, it was still good.
The venue was also pleasant and we were treated well by the bar staff.
The only niggling complaint I would have is that one of the theatre ushers told my boss to stop rustling her programme. Perhaps if there was a brief synopsis of the play in it she wouldn’t have to diligently go through extensive Finborough facts and playwright biographies. Though this really is a ‘nit pick’ to be honest, as it was a good evening throughout.