David Williamson's play, Managing Carmen, which enjoyed its debut season at QPAC in Brisbane in late 2012, is back in town again showing at the QUT Gardens Theatre as part of their Gardens Theatre 2014 Season. Set in Victoria, this two act play explores how the hard-nosed commercial world of the Australian Rules football attempts to manage the revelation by a celebrity player and dual Brownlow medallist, Brent Lyall (played by Jamieson Caldwell), of his secret addiction called Carmen.
It opens with Brent's driven and stressed out sports manager, Rohan (Brandon Burke) in despair. Potentially lucrative commercial endorsements are at risk because of Brent's woefully wooden appearance in front of the camera. Further attempts to publicise Brent as an all-round heterosexual athlete by engaging the flirtatious Clara (Annie Last) as his live-in girlfriend are also failing through obvious lack of enthusiasm by Brent. Rohan pulls out all stops to address the matter and engages the services of an earnest psychologist Jessica (Hannah Norris), recently arrived from Queensland, to get to the bottom of the matter. It takes little time for Jessica to unearth what underpins Brent's frozen and cynical demeanour off the football field. The problem is how it can be managed especially in the face of relentless rumours about Brent's personal's life which the dubious sports journalist, Max (Trent Baker) threatens to expose much to the concern of Brent's manager, Rohan.
How Brent's secret is managed plays out as a comedy with a serious message about tolerance and bigotry, characteristic of Williamson's many plays. Managing Carmen is a cornucopia of fast paced, humorous and very Australian dialogue with an uplifting message about the importance of both accepting human frailty and valuing diversity in all its richness. It was delivered with great skill and superb timing by the highly professional cast much to the delight of a very appreciative audience. The stage set was simple but effective in conveying the different scenes. Equally the sound effects, music and lighting were well designed to reflect the play's shifting ambience. Those of us able to attend the short three day season of Managing Carmen have been fortunate to have had an opportunity to see this particularly enjoyable and well-crafted production directed by Denis Moore and produced by Christine Hill and HIT Productions.