However, I've been fortunate to see three plays of Nick Enright's in production.
Daylight Saving was the first Australian play I ever saw. Tarragon produced it in 1991 and it was so witty I fell in love with it immediately. It didn't hurt that two of my favourite actors, RH Thomson and Joe Ziegler, would end up playing in it. I saw it two or three times and was always enchanted. Years later, I was in the library of the University of New South Wales and took the opportunity to re-read the script. It was just as wonderful as I remembered.
The second show I saw was Cloudstreet, when it toured to BAM in New York. It's a 5 hour plus (it had an intermission and a dinner break) adaptation of a seminal Tim Winton novel that follows two families, the Lambs and the Pickles, over a span of 2 decades. The great Neil Armfield was directing and was also giving a talk at BAM, so there was no way I was going to miss it. Even though I bought my tickets early, it still, to this day, has been the most I have ever spent on one show.
As timing would have it, the show opened three weeks after September 11th. Ground Zero was still burning while I was there, the toxic fumes in the air as I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to go to Neil's talk. Even with all the craziness, it was completely worth the trip. The staging was simple and highly theatrical (my personal favourite moment was a group of single lightbulbs suspended individually over the stage to create the stars in the night sky), the script sharp and moving. And listening to Neil convinced me that he and Richard Rose have been separated at birth.
Six months later I was in rehearsals in Sydney and his new play, A Man With Five Children, was playing. To my memory, it's the first time I had seen a show with video projection - at the very least, I remember being very impressed by how the show integrated that element. I didn't feel the script was as strong as the others, but I did feel taken along on a wonderful emotional journey. I found the premise, based on Michael Apted's Up series, fascinating. (There's a great academic article on it written by David Jobling in 2005 for Australian Screen Education.)
I had hoped that the next time I went to Australia I'd have a chance to meet him at the annual Australian National Playwrights Conference, but fate never gave me a chance. After a year-long battle with cancer, Nick died on March 30, 2003. Having no idea he was sick, I was in shock after seeing the obit in the Sydney Morning Herald.
I wish I was able to read more of his work. I wonder if he came to Canada when Daylight Savings premiered. I wish more people knew his name and work. So this article is a small way to do that. Through a search of the online archives, I found two articles in the Australian that can be accessed through the library archives: one by Brendan O'Keefe called "Era captured in the Nick of our time", which talks about a conference held in 2005 on Nick's work and the plan to codify his work and teaching into a book,; and another written the same year, "Between community and the mainstream stage" by John McCallum, the resident theatre reviewer, talking about his legacy. Sadly, there's not much out there on the internet itself. I couldn't find past reviews of the shows I saw, and had to do major digging for the links in this article. It's a sad state of affairs.
And to tie into a theme I've been on recently on this blog, a quotation from Nick from his Rex Cramphorn Memorial Lecture in 2002 (link is the full text):
I believe we are losing sight of the value and dignity of the actor in our society, and of the importance of continuity, tradition and experience in this most ancient and essential art form...To paraphrase Hazlitt (William Hazlitt, literary critic), the actor shows us who we are, who we hope to be, and who we fear we may be. So we need to recognize that by demeaning, marginalizing, and superannuating actors, society cheats itself.May his legacy not die out.