Wednesday February 21, 2024
Constance Drinkwater and the Final Days of Somerset

Constance Drinkwater and the Final Days of Somerset

By Gabby Bermingham
September 25 2006

Stephen Carleton has written a play that almost successfully marries comedy with gothic tones, producing a fairly interesting examination of colonial life in a town in far north Queensland. The story centres on a prim Englishwoman, Constance Drinkwater and her two children, who give shelter to a shipwrecked anthropologist and Chinese trader.

The play itself has some very funny moments, mostly arising from the uptight nature of Drinkwater played by Susan Prior, or from the sometimes Basil Fawlty-esque manner of Father Angelico played by David Callan as he succumbs to madness.

Drinkwater has two daughters, Hope and Fortitude played by Ella Scott Lynch and Billie Rose Prichard respectively. The girls introduce the supernatural to the narrative and Lynch and Prichard portray their characters with flair, swinging masterfully between childhood innocence and fevered madness. Their characters are reminiscent of the children from ‘ The Turn of the screw’ or ‘The Others’.

The themes of insular attitudes and claustrophobic xenophobia, work quite well in this context. However, in his efforts to avoid ‘pithy, cynical dialogue and all that stuff’, Carleton manages to hit the audience on the head with a sledgehammer to ensure we all get the message. Somehow, the first act works very well, incorporating humour and a little intrigue. Sadly, the second act becomes confused, overplayed and just long. My companion was willing some characters to die much earlier than their scripted demise.

Constance Drinkwater and the Final Days of Somerset

I would recommend this play because Lynch, Prichard and Jason Chong as Hop Lee are interesting actors who bring great characterisation to this otherwise inconsistent play. ‘Constance Drinkwater and the final days of Somerset’ is presented by the Tamara Rock Surfers and Griffin Stablemates and is currently showing at The Stables.



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