David Williamson’s new play, a microcosmic view of money, power and privilege in Australian society, paints its picture with broad and entertaining brushstrokes.

The wily playwright cuts straight to the chase. Property magnate Alex Whittle, Australia’s richest woman, is out to buy as much as she can of Wallis Heads, a slightly down-at-heel coastal town where ordinary folk on average wages can afford to live.

Kate Raison and Georgie Parker in The Great Divide. Photo © Brett Boardman

Whittle has big plans for the place. A golf course, a high street revamp and the removal of development height limits will turn this dozy backwater into an upmarket lifestyle destination. The local council (which will get swank new chambers as part of the deal) is already in her pocket. Opposition to Whittle’s plans seems insignificant, here embodied by Penny, a supermarket shelf-stacker and single mum, who fears the town she has called home for 20 years will go the way of Byron Bay.

In a battle that pits a billionaire with no scruples against a determined egalitarian without a brass razoo to her name, who will triumph? Let’s just say that the comeuppance Williamson contrives here can probably only ever exist in the theatre.

Mark Kilmurry directs a clean, well-paced staging on a louvred set by James Browne. He has cast the play impeccably. Georgie Parker is vivaciously ballsy as Whittle. Emma Diaz is charismatic as Penny. Caitlin Burley plays Penny’s surfer daughter, lured into a scheme to discredit her own mum, and she is excellent in the role. Kate Raison’s Grace (The Great Divide’s “Deep Throat”), John Wood’s crooked mayor and James Lugton’s local newspaper editor are similarly well drawn.


The Great Divide plays at Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli, Sydney until 27 April.

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