Another side, another story
By Owen James
‘A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney’ presents a fictional script penned by Walt himself as a reflection on obsession, self-sabotage, and his own death.
This piece written by US playwright Lucas Hnath and presented by Melbourne’s MKA Theatre of New Writing is absorbing and intriguing. By taking one of the most prolific creative figures in history and questioning and even defacing his memory through a fictionalised and sensationalised characterisation, it leads us to contemplate the purity of some of our own most treasured childhood memories. But just how warped is this portrait of Walt? It’s common enough knowledge that his demeanour didn’t match the friendly family face he exerted publicly, and that his obsessive, antagonistic, and even racist darker sides often inflamed his personal and business lives. The script by Hnath explores this representation of Walt – whether fictional or accurate – and the weight it placed on his family and business decisions in his life.
Tobias Manderson-Gavin plays Walt with an unforgiving intensity that ensures the energy of this show never dips – which is essential, as for the majority of the show it is very visually stagnant, with four actors sitting in chairs reading from their screenplays. He is so present and truthful in every moment, that his unpredictability makes every scene uniquely exciting. Manderson-Gavin is the puppet master of this play just as Walt was of his company, and the control he has over the energy in the room is palpable.
The supporting cast features Kerith Manderson-Gavin as Roy Miller, Lenore Manderson as Diane Miller and Patrick Galvin as Ron – but none of them quite match Tobias’ energy. This seems like a very conscious decision though, as with Tobias launching himself at the night’s atmosphere with absolutely zero reservations, matched energy from the supporting cast would be overkill.
‘The Death of Walt Disney’ has deep, captivating monologues scattered throughout, and it’s these moments that I find most engrossing. The bizarrely absurd world that directors Tobias Manderson-Galvin and Cara Dinley have created is sometimes highly erratic, but it’s this lunacy that keeps it alive. It’s unclear which moments in the show are improvised and how much is genuinely pre-planned or premeditated, but again it is this excitement that makes the wild ride oddly mesmerising.
Find yourself caught up in the world of ‘The Death of Walt Disney’ at The MC Showroom in Prahran, to decide for yourself how falsified or tarnished this account of Walt is – or perhaps how terrifyingly realistic it may be.