The Old Fitzroy Hotel theatre (aka The Fitz) is a much loved Sydney Independent Theatre. Full of its own charms and challenges as a venue- but one of the true champions of new Australian work. Programmed by Leland Keane and with dedicated team of practitioners (Lucinda Gleeson and Phil Spencer- this is a nod in your direction) running the company. There is something grungy, urgent and fun about heading to the theatre… and this year, I think I have attended this theatre more than any other. Primarily because I am keen to support writers- and it is a great space for practitioners to come together and forge new work in front of an audience. There have been excellent Fringe- transplants this year: namely The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman aka etc and Death In Bowengabbie by Caleb Lewis… and a couple of more wild and experimental shows (you know the ones I am talking about). Anyway- it’s a great venue and I am a fan.

The Schelling Point, written by Ron Elisha, is a portrayal of acrobatic logic when men are faced with love and/or war. Laced with a preoccupation of chance or likeliness- a logician, Tom Schelling advises a robust and forthright President Kennedy on international relations and nuclear strategy. We are brought into the lives of two sets of men, who’s lives inexorably overlap. One set- the President and his men, the other Stanley Kubrick and his men. Both men are focussed and driven- and have their failings/misadventures with women… at the centre of the story is really the grand and time honoured tradition of “the science of reasoning.” Calculated, methodical, and at times morally challenging, the approach taken is really a sequence of measured “if … then… ” statements. At times a wonderful knot in one’s brow is formed by the search to unpick the possibilities of the knotted guesswork- and what is resoundingly sweet about this process is the hope/faith or committed-ness of those pursuing the thought/possibility- that there is an answer. That there is a way to navigate one selves through the maze and the possibilities raised in a variety of logical forms.

This is a handsome production- generously wrangled by director Sarah Goodes, the set looks fantastic- the costumes are great (especially the dresses of Miss Lauren La Rouge)- over all design by Marissa Dale- Johnson is impressive and effective. Goodes has also cast extraordinary talent for this production: David Callan (Peter Sellars), Daniel Cordeaux ( George C Scott), Jonathan Elsom (as Robert McNamara), Andrew Henry (Tom Schelling) Jamie McGregor (John F Kennedy), Marshall Napier (as Stanley Kubrick)- WOW! They attack the scenes with great guts and confident American accents/ impersonations and are serenaded by Miss Lauren la Rouge between scenes. The cast are magnificent, I particularly enjoyed Andrew Henry’s performance as he managed to make sense of and spontaneously deliver some complex premises in a charming and succinct manner- no mean feat! And David Callan’s moment of truth speech as Sellars is particularly poignant and beautifully delivered. This all makes for an attractive, fun night out, for sure. It’s entertainment of a yesteryear flavour.

And perhaps that’s it’s strength and why it will appeal to some. Those who are fans of Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove, or who are of a certain generation- or those who love a juke-box style musical, will certainly have a good time. However,I must admit that this was not really my taste. I I found much of the play, to be over-written, ideas either over explained- or conversations which didn’t really lead to anything new. Large swathes of misogynistic conversation (for some emblematic of the attitudes of the time, for me a little on the dull and predictable side and lasts too long without anything driving the scene) and stylised /cartoonish characterisations reference a film I am not particularly familiar with- so the jokes were largely lost on me. But I am sure for others who are enthusiasts/fans, it was a hoot to see them enacted these impersonations on stage: it’s just not very deep, or detailed- at best this is farcical variety entertainment, because really the scenes weren’t particularly enlightened or heartfelt- except for the moment I mentioned above from Callan, which seems a glaring inconsistency in the tone of the rest of the play. Largely it is a fairly superficially written bio-play: not much learned, and a lot assumed by the writer. Unfortunately because of this, my sympathy for all the characters powerfully diminished – they all seemed utterly hopeless- but not in a cute, endearing way- but a “if- this– is– what– powerful– men– who– run– the– world– are– really– like–, heaven– help– us– what– a– bunch– of– selfish– losers” kind of way.

Not so much a play, as a revue- brightly delivering complex logical theory, songs, politics and a few women-hating gags. It’s tricky stuff as The Schelling Point assumes a lot of prior knowledge- and is really written for fans of the era, or fans of Kubrick or Sellars or Dr Strangelove. None of which I am, so I guess, best declare that “not really my thing, but exquisitely designed, beautifully produced and skillfully directed.” If you are so inclined, this is probably the show to take your Dad to for father’s day.

Though it is not really my thing- but it is beautifully done and well worth a look if you are keen on a light(ish) night out.