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  Don's Party The Disappointed
Year: 1976
Director: Bruce Beresford
Stars: Ray Barrett, Clare Binney, Pat Bishop, Graeme Blundell, Jeanie Drynan, John Hargreaves, Harold Hopkins, Graham Kennedy, Veronica Lang, Candy Raymond, Kit Taylor, John Grey Gorton
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1969 and Australia is holding a general election, so to celebrate what he anticipates as the upcoming victory for the Labor Party, writer Don Henderson (John Hargreaves) has opted to hold a party for his friends so they can watch the results on television. During the day, he takes his wife Kath (Jeanie Drynan), along with their baby, to the polling station and they cast their votes, confident that socialism will win out over conservatism. Then it's a matter of buying the beer, food for the barbecue, and waiting for the guests to arrive. But the evening won't go Don's way, or benefit anyone at the party...

In Britain, Don's Party has the reputation of being the Australian variation on Mike Leigh's play, adpated for television, Abigail's Party. This is down to the way both Leigh and the writer of this, David Williamson, cast a steely gaze over the shortcomings of their middle class characters, although here they are much randier than the more staid Brits. Most of the humour arises from their cringeworthy behaviour and the way they end up pretty much humiliated, no matter what side of the political spectrum they happen to fall on.

This is because in spite of their lip service to being passionate about politics, most of the guests are more interested in sexual relations over social and industrial ones. Don, along with all but two, maybe three of his partygoers, is a dyed in the wool socialist, but by the time the results are coming in and showing a poor tally for Labor it hardly matters as the party has grown so heated - it's just one more indignity they have to face, though not one engineered by themselves. Williamson sketches in the largely middle-aged, or getting there, personalities with skill, from the uptight Liberal couple to the oversexed lawyer with the trophy girlfriend, and they're all headed on a collision course.

There are many funny lines, but the observation is cruelly amusing more often than not. Simon (Graeme Blundell) always seems to find himself in crude conversations that he would rather not be part of, and his wife Jody (Veronica Lang) is shocked by the language but eventually succumbs to the air of what's the point? decadence. Then there are the supposed intellectuals, artist Kerry (Candy Raymond) and her husband Evan (Kit Taylor) who have different ways of coping with the way almost every man at the gathering wants to have his wicked way with her.

If it's not sex on the brain, it's alcohol, and the drinking game to accompany Don's Party would rival Withnail and I for potential inebriation. Almost everyone has a drink in their hand at any one stage and of course it all fuels the bad behaviour - one character, Mack (Graham Kennedy) even wears a tankard on a chain around his neck for regular refilling. Before long, the climax to most similar plays has happened about halfway through, and things only get worse from there. The guests might kid themselves they have an certain sophistication, but they're prey to their most basic urges as the dialogue makes clear. It does prompt laughter, but there's a caustic bitterness underlying the action, a sense of a generation that has missed its chance, brought out by strong ensemble performances.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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