Peter Robinson was quick to accept the title role in Canberra Repertory Society's production of Don Parties On. It was a decision he almost regretted.
''I said, 'Sure' without having read the play,'' Robinson said.
''I read it when I got home and thought, 'What a load of shit'.''
But, he said, he soon changed his opinion of the play, David Williamson's 2011 sequel to his 1971 hit Don's Party.
''As I kept reading it I came to respect the precision of his language … it's a play of considerable depth.''
Robinson made his Rep debut with Tom Stoppard's play Enter A Free Man in 1983 - which, like Don Parties On, was directed by Aarne Neeme.
The original play was set on the eve of the 1969 federal election. Don Parties On is set on the eve of the 2010 election. Don, nostalgic for the 1960s, is throwing another party to bring what's left of the old crowd together again.
A lot has changed in the intervening decades. Don is retired and has written an unsuccessful novel that aroused the ire of his family and friends for what seemed to be thinly veiled and unflattering portrayals of them. Kath (Judi Crane) is a university lecturer in art history and her career achievements have surpassed his. Their marriage survived a brief affair he had many years ago and they have two children - and history seems to be repeating: their son Richard (Sam Hannan-Morrow) has left his wife for another woman, much to the disgust of his teenage daughter Belle (Isha Menon).
Asked whether she could relate to any of the characters and situations in the play, Crane said, ''No comment!'' but then admitted there were aspects that rang true.
''If it's not something you've said or done it's something that someone you know has.''
One of the old gang is Mal (Pat Gallagher) - divorced from Jenny (Helen Vaughan-Roberts) and fallen on hard times.
''It's had an impact on him, he's a bit jaded but at the same time he's a bit of a philosopher … His beliefs are very strong and deeply held and he's not afraid to lecture people in them,'' Gallagher said.
One of the things he liked about Williamson's work was that it was ''very definitely Australian''. Menon, who is 16 like her character, will be making her Canberra stage debut. Although born in Canberra, she lived much of her early life in India and the Netherlands, the birthplaces of her parents, and began acting when she was five.
''Belle is a very opinionated young girl and at that age where she thinks she's more intelligent than anyone else in the world,'' she said.
But while she was angry at her father, she was also vulnerable and scared about what was happening to her family.
''There's a scene where she comes to terms with it: life isn't perfect, this will do.''
■ Don Parties On is on at Theatre 3, 3 Repertory Lane, Acton as follows: August 1 (preview) then August 2 to 17, Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm with 2pm matinees on August 10, 11 and 17. Tickets $40 full, $35 concession, $30 preview. Bookings: 6257 1950 or canberrarep.org.au
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