Reviewed by John Sheridan on Saturday, 20.09.08 for 3MBS’s “Accidental Arts” Saturdays at 11.30am on 103.5AM.Frank Thring was a powerful presence on stage, radio or in the many films he appeared in such as ‘Ben Hur’, King of Kings’ and ‘El Cid’. He was loved, feared and sometimes loathed, but you couldn’t ignore him.
Barry Dickens play ‘The Real Thring’ is, as he says, ‘more a reimaging or fantasy of what’s playing in his mind’, and this I think is one of the keys to understanding the piece.
The play is produced by Melbourne Independent Theatre company, Hoy Polloy and directed by Wayne Pearn.
Thring, interpreted for us by Michael F Cahill, is reliving his life in those final days when his legs had been amputated, due to diabetes, and he was dying of cancer of the throat.
It’s impossible to sum up such an extraordinary life as Thring’s in the 75 or 80 minutes of the piece. Cahill is wise in that he doesn’t attempt to impersonate Thring; that would have become somewhat tiresome at about the 30 minute mark. Rather, his interpretation draws you in as he ponders what was, and what he threw away – why? – we shall probably never know.
The play has a good opening scene, and just as you’re recovering from this, it dawns on you that the structure is in verse form, reminiscent, for me anyway, of C.J.Dennis. This is appropriate, in one sense, as young Francis first starring role was at the age of 6 in his father’s feature film of 1932, ‘The Sentimental Bloke’.
Thring senior was a pioneer in film making in Melbourne. He was also involved with Hoyt’s Theatres and radio Station 3XY; heady stuff for young Francis.
Although Thring adored his father, he wasn’t oblivious to the man’s faults. Frank was only 10 when F.T.Thring died, and I wonder did he ever get over it.
‘The Real Thring’ is at the RRR Performance Space, 221 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East until September 27th