Once in Royal David’s City: play offers up mixed emotions


Emma Jackson and Jason Klarwein in the WA premiere of Once in Royal David’s City.
Emma Jackson and Jason Klarwein in the WA premiere of Once in Royal David’s City.

WILL is a theatre director obsessed with playwright Bertolt Brecht who hopes to give his mother a peaceful Christmas on the beach at Byron Bay following the death of his father six weeks earlier.

But it slowly becomes obvious that his mother is also seriously ill and as Will takes up vigil at her bedside, he ponders his various relationships, denying his mother’s illness and raging against animate and inanimate objects, including a Bible-basher who gets a big laugh when he |describes the Bible as a “very long story proving there |is no one there”.

Once in Royal David’s City is alternately touching, poignant, gripping – one could have heard a pin drop in the audience – and very funny.

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The sets are amazing, with just a clothes rack for rapid costume changes and a |series of stage-wide curtains for scene changes.

The cast comes to grips admirably with long dialogues and there are some fine performances, particularly from Jason Klarwein as Will, a hilarious offering by Steve Turner, particularly as he flies around the stage on a scooter, and Penny Everingham as Will’s mother.

Everingham could simply have lain in her hospital bed but she is more than convincing as a dying woman.

Once in Royal David’s City is by Australian playwright Michael Gow and directed by Queensland Theatre’s new artistic director, Sam Strong.