See article in its original context here by Cameron Woodhead for The Age.
Young & Jackson – the pub opposite the clocks at Flinders Street Station – is a Melbourne icon. It celebrates its 140th anniversary this year, and as the setting for Don Reid’s play of the same name, every attempt has been made to recreate the atmosphere, right down to a replica of the famous nude painting in Chloe’s Bar. The audience is seated at tables laden with jugs of lemon squash and longnecks of Melbourne Bitter.
A prequel of sorts to the successful Codgers, the play resurrects the febrile days of World War II. Two teenage mates have enlisted in the navy, and are billeted at the hotel before they’re sent off to fight the Japanese.
There’s Jimmy (Jacon Machin) – a hot-tempered larrikin with an eye for the ladies – and the more gentlemanly, good-natured Keith (Charlie Cousins) sharing a room at the pub. That’s not all they end up sharing with the arrival of Lorna (Gabrielle Scawthorn), an independent-minded woman whose beau was killed in action and who feels compelled to offer company and comfort to the boys going off to war.
The charm and delicacy of the acting in the first half can’t be overstated. Machin and Cousins bring to life not just the period lingo of the script, but a whole lost aspect of Aussie male intimacy.
You don’t see male acting as sharp, or humour as well-tuned as this very often, and it’s a pleasure to watch.
Scawthorn’s Lorna is luminous. She masks her grief at the loss she’s suffered under a sardonic veneerand is determined to grab at the freedoms offered to women like her only in wartime.
Sam Duncan as Les, a mate of Keith’s who’s seen action and is shell-shocked from it, is less assured. By the time he has much to do in the second act, the play has lost dramatic shape.
Simon Coleman’s direction resurrects a lost world and summons nuance and vibrancy from the comic performances.