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04 May 1:12 pm

Smurf in Wanderland review

“For Smurf is not just about football; it is about la condition humaine – where we all have our failures and humiliations, as well as our moments of triumph and joy.”

Maggie Mason from Arts & Tarts saw Smurf in Wanderland at Riverside Theatres and shared her review with us. 

When I knew I was going to Smurf in Wanderland at Riverside, I realised that I knew very little about football. But I DO know a lot about Riverside and the quality of its productions, in terms of being interesting, engaging, and dealing with the human spirit, and our relationships in the community.

And I was right.

David Williams – writer and performer – brings a wide range of skills to this solo show; from the beginning he speaks to the audience about this sport that he loves, and ‘effortlessly’ tells us that we are divided into two sides, with even the chairs in the Lennox theatre being red on one side and blue on the other.

He also tells us that we will be participating in the game, by repeating the ‘anthems’ of different clubs, – with the words being cunningly written on video screens at the same time, so that the production runs smoothly. And it is these visual details that add so much to our enjoyment, apart from the inclusive and sincere manner of the performer. The lighting contributes to creating atmosphere, objects fly from the sky, and a few banners are unfolded at certain moments, so that we can laugh – and yet further understand the ‘tribal instinct’ that informs passionate loyalty to football teams … in this case, in Williams’ home city of Sydney.

But one of the main themes of Smurf is the benign nature of this loyalty; and he refutes specific examples of unfair demonization, of dismissive and damaging reports of ’hooliganism’ – particularly in some newspaper articles. It is this intellectual rigour, combined with a down-to-earth delivery and humour which kept me entertained from beginning to end.

For Smurf is not just about football; it is about la condition humaine – where we all have our failures and humiliations, as well as our moments of triumph and joy.

Another narrative thread is the interweaving of Williams’ own personal history with dramatic moments of footy finals and so on. From growing up in Greystanes, going to uni, and revealing the pregnancy and birth of his son, we are drawn into a very personal and endearing story, and everyone empathised with the conflicting demands of ‘footy and family’!

This show could have been about any sport – or any theme. From the clever but unobtrusive production details to the smiles on audience faces, this National Theatre of Parramatta & Griffin Theatre Company creation was yet another success; it was a privilege to share in this wonderful experience.

- Maggie Mason

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