Direction: Ross Jolly (written by Anthony McCarten)
Circa Theatre; Circa One (July 1 – 29)
The play WEED was first performed as a contemporary piece – the playwright Anthony McCarten had the success of Ladies Night behind him and its 1990 premiere was at Circa Theatre in its earlier locale.
For this revisit Circa has moved, the play’s original director is back – but it’s a new cast (obviously) and it’s viewed now as a piece of recent history; we flash back to the early 90s via a soundtrack featuring Nirvana, AC/DC and some late 80s staples – John Mellencamp’s Paper and Fire speaking to both the theme and the era.
WEED has two farmers Henry Donovan (Gavin Rutherford) and Jack Riordan (Andrew Foster) planning to ‘diversify’ – they will grow marijuana to prop up failing livestock sales. The chemistry between Rutherford and Foster is palpable from their first scene together and from there throughout, both are skilled for the physical-comedy elements (Rutherford in particular is brilliant here) and both have great natural comedic timing – the play wins because of the meeting of McCarten’s zinging dialogue and Rutherford and Foster’s brilliant realisation of their characters.
Simon Leary plays Jack’s stoner nephew Hugh. He’s also brilliant in his way with this character, wandering off mid-sentence and punctuating even his most inane lines with a demented grin or daft giggle. He’s a fool. A comedic fool. We know they often need to be watched.
Hugh will provide the seeds for Henry and Jack and free-spirited artist Terri (played with all the enthusiasm that can be summoned by Bronwyn Turei) is a muse for Henry (unbeknownst to her; in fact he’d like her to be more than just that).
Viewed now there’s a subtle political comment underpinning the pure entertainment of this piece. We can see the criticism of neo-liberal economics but we’re not bashed over the head by it.
We can also just sit back and watch as four superb performances make the very best out of a sharply observed, wryly amusing script.
At the heart of this play is a great observation of rural characters – never quite a cliché, though sometimes (for the sake of humour) not that far from it.
WEED is one of the funniest theatre productions I’ve seen in a while. A must for a great night’s entertainment – and as good as all of the performances are it is Rutherford’s character that carries it. He’s there for the amazing monologue-driven prologue; we watch from there – those, erm, seeds of his character – and we see a great range of emotions, and the aforementioned deft physical comedy.
The set, too, is very clever – a hidden wall shifting us between two farmhouses with ease. A superb production. One you must see.