Life After George: relationships put under microscope at Garrick Theatre

Actors Anna Head and Peter Clark.
Actors Anna Head and Peter Clark.

MELBOURNE box office hit Life After George by Australian playwright Hannie Rayson opens at the Garrick Theatre, in Guildford, on May 25 with a local cast led by former Royal Shakespeare Company actor Peter Clark.

Clark, a graduate of the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in London, plays a dead husband – charismatic, left-wing professor Peter George, who meets a sticky end with a mystery woman in a light-plane crash, leaving behind two ex-wives, a young widow, a son and daughter.

The four women get more than they bargained for when they get together with his best mate, Duffy, to plan the funeral and the true nature of the man they loved unfolds.

“George’s approach to relationships and monogamy is probably questionable, but I like his outlook on life,” Clark said. “There’s an overarching desire in him to simply want to build a better future, so despite his foibles, his heart is in the right place.”

Clark works in hospitality as general manager of a conference venue in Perth, but his heart is in theatre. He met and proposed to his wife, a WA Academy of Performing Arts graduate, on stage at the Garrick, which marks its 85th anniversary this year.

He said the key to playing George was juggling a script that covered three decades of intellectual and political change, from the student barricades of Paris in the late 60s to the new millennium in which the university had become a corporate institution with an emphasis on commercial success.

Director Lynne Devenish said the Garrick’s light and sound expert, Geoff Holt, had to upgrade the theatre’s system to accommodate the play.

“Having directed a Hannie Rayson play before, I knew it would be demanding technically due to the number of scenes, the to-and-fro over three decades and multiple acting areas to be crammed on to our tiny stage,” she said.

“The use of coloured lighting is crucial to indicate locations and passage of time. Each scene needs to flow to the next with minimal disruption because if there are delays, you lose your audience.”

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