The Trouble with Harry is a play based on the true story of Eugenia Falleni and written by the Australian multi-award winning dramatist Lachlan Philpott. It’s being performed in Sydney from 16 February to 3 March at the Seymour Center.
When I arrived in the small theater, I chose to sit on the side so I could see both the stage and behind the scenes. As I was unfamiliar with Harry’s story, I didn’t realize how ironic my decision was until I discovered Harry’s secret.
On stage, 19th-century décor was set up. It was very minimalistic: we could only see a table, three chairs and two curtains. Soon enough, we discovered the characters: Annie, Harry, Josephine, and Harry… At first, I was confused. Which Harry is the troubled one? As the plot progressed, I understood that the trouble was with Harry Crawford, who was actually a woman who lived as a man for decades and married Annie, a widow with a 9-year-old son.
Jodie Le Vesconte is fascinating as Harry Crawford. She puts herself in a man’s shoes with ease. With her boorish attitude, her strict parental authority, and her cynical humor, her performance as a male is impressively convincing.
When the denouement was revealed, I could read the astonishment on a girl’s face from the other side of the room. Her eyes were wide opened and she had one hand hiding her mouth, probably wide opened as well.
At the end, everything made sense. The curtains that Annie used to close so the neighbors could not see through the window and gossip about her family. The repetition of the word ‘decent’. Annie wants to live a decent life, and most importantly, she wants a decent reputation.
Finally, the rivalry between Annie and the anonymous characters — the man and the woman — who personify not only the society at the time, but also the modern society, our society. The neutral and modern clothing of the man and the woman deeply contrast with the costumes of the main characters.
Director and producer Kate Gaul cleverly shows that the public opinion on the transgender matter hasn’t evolved much since Harry’s story. It is also interesting to see how Lachlan Philpott and Kate Gaul have decided to give more importance to the transgender topic by putting the murder case aside.
The Trouble with Harry is an ambitious Australian play. It addresses controversial issues with relevancy thanks to the talented performance of the actors.
Image credit: Clare Hawley.