Australian actor, singer, theatrical performer and former television presenter Reginald Dawson “Reg” Livermore AO, became a founding member of the Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli, Sydney in 1958. It is Australia’s longest continuously running professional theatre company; Cammeray Children’s Library was the venue for its first production in the same year.
In 1960 it relocated to its current premises, an old converted boatshed on the shore of Careening Cove and it is very fitting, that during the celebratory 60th Anniversary Season, the Ensemble Theatre is staging Reg Livermore’s recently written one-man show, The Widow Unplugged or An Actor Deploys.
Reg Livermore’s life has been dedicated to theatre and he has entertained audiences as an actor, singer, theatrical performer and television presenter for more than sixty decades.
His credits are endless and include the Wizard of Oz, Mavis Bramston Show, The Mikado, the rock musical Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Rocky Horror Show. His outrageous much admired Betty Blokk Buster Follies played to record crowds in Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne. His mighty version of ‘Captain Jack’ loved by his fans forever.
Then there were My Fair Lady and Wicked. to name but a few.
His awards and outstanding achievements include being named one of 100 Australian Entertainers of the century. An exhibition at the Arts Centre Melbourne celebrated his career. Costumes worn by him were important components of the display.
He received the Sydney Critics Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 and a Helpmann Award the same year for his performance in Wicked. He is also the recipient of The JC Williamson Centenary Medal for Lifetime Achievement 2017.
So it is natural The Widow Unplugged or An Actor Deploys has its roots firmly entrenched in the world of acting Livermore loves so dearly. As he approaches eighty years of age himself, he like many others is frequently “where one’s sense of personal relevance is often dramatically tested.”
He takes on the persona of Arthur Kwick, an actor who has experienced the ups and downs of a theatrical career. However more recently the ‘downs’ have escalated as not only did his recent very short lived show close but his boarding hostel went up in flames.
Arthur is driven by survival needs to accept the role of handy man, janitor and entertainment director in the Time and Tides aged care home. His theatre expertise is given new possibilities for consolidation and a final bow.
Set and Costume Designer Charles Davis has replicated the sterility and institutional atmosphere through the predictable vertical blinds, white skirting boards, teak door and red carpet embossed with a repetitive black floral pattern.
There was a shadow of melancholy subtly seeping from the set as it transformed into office, dressing room and theatre through the simple changes of curtains and additional props.
Livermore’s optimism, jokes, malapropisms and quirky stunts at times softened the difficulties the elderly encounter, the ever present feeling of a growing invisibility and inevitable, looming death.
His love of pantomime that wonderful theatrical entertainment often based on a fairy tale or nursery rhymes is pivotal in his narrative.
Topical jokes and slapstick comedy permeate his gestures and expression as he rallies and energises to give a pantomime rendition of the Widow Twankey in Aladdin, a performance piece for the ‘inmates’ of Time and Tide. As he resurrects a past success in the role of the pantomime dame Widow Twanky, Arthur is burdened and plagued by his audience response. The silence is excruciating and the depth of disappointment intense.
In the Writer’s Note Reg Livermore articulates. “The play is not intended as a biographical statement, my own career has been much more successful than Arthur’s particular journey, though there are commonalities…”
He also noted”… amongst the array, we both possess vivid imaginations which are always helpful when you’re plying your craft in show business. As a practising actor, therefore, I am qualified to examine his story, to expose his strengths and weaknesses and to empathise with his situation.”
Arthur Kwick confronts the last role of his career with a vitality expressed in his nimble and animated movements across the stage. Livermore brings vitality to a character in his twilight years.
Amid Reg Livermore’s latest solo stage show the Ensemble Theatre has just announced its electrifying, enthralling and exceptional 2019 season.
Throughout 2019 they will stage six brilliant comedies, three intense dramas and a musical deconstruction of a love affair.
Mark Kilmurry, Artistic Director said it “promises to be an exceptional year … where three of the plays will be World Premieres, three Australian Premieres and there will be a return season of the sell-out play, Diplomacy.”
Diplomacy explores how Paris was saved from total destruction in World War 11and John Bell and John Gaden will reprise their roles.
Fifty of Australia’s most talented actors, half of whom are women, will perform in 10 plays including a brand new David Williamson satire, The Big Time; a thrilling drama very different from An Intimate Evening with Paul Capsis.
Then there is The Last Wife; Melanie Tait’s explosively funny The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race, which is an all-female cast, directed by Priscilla Jackman, Folk starring Genevieve Lemon, Murder On The Wireless written and directed by Mary Kilmurry, Fully Committed directed by Kate Champion and The Odd Couple, also directed by Mark Kilmurry.
In addition classic works from two of the greatest American playwrights including Arthur Miller’s, A View From The Bridge and the 1956 Tennessee William’s screenplay Baby Doll adapted by Pierre Laveille and Emily Mann and staged to rave reviews by the Fountain Theatre Los Angeles in 2016.
The Last Five Years is the Broadway award winning musical with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and will be directed by Elsie Edgerton-Till. It is sure to make everyone fall in love with modern musical theatre.
The variety and integrity of the season at the Ensemble Theatre will provide choice, enjoyment, entertainment and challenge for its theatre loving audiences in 2019.
Rose Niland, Special Features Correspondent NSW, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018
The Widow Unplugged or An Actor Deploys
By Reg Livermore
26 July – 1 September 2018
Featuring Reg Livermore as Arthur Kwick