September 8th, 2014       Posted by Frederik       Display Comments

Foxtel’s miniseries “Devil’s Playground” premieres tonight in Australia. In 1975, Fred Schepisi wrote and directed a movie called The Devil’s Playground, about his own teenage years when he moved away from a strict Catholic upbringing. It won the AFI award for Best Film in 1976 and Simon Burke won the award for Best Actor. The 2014 “sequel” puts the subject of abuse by the clergy front and centre. Burke revisits the role of Tom Allen, which he first played as a 13 year old. Now as an adult Tom is a psychiatrist and secular confessor to the Catholic clergy.

Among the impressive cast is Toni Collette, who created a unique individual out of her character – a crusading member of parliament who takes on the Catholic Church. “Her character just appeared to us fairly late in the day, and we were just overjoyed when Toni said yes,” he says. “She makes this character with a completely different energy to a lot of the others. She lifts it and brings this deft, light touch – especially the scenes with Don Hany. She’s a member of parliament and he’s a bishop. You watch and go, ‘My god, it’s like Clark Gable and Katharine Hepburn’.” So it’s a comic part? “No,” Burke says, “but in a show that doesn’t have a hell of a lot of laughs, they have a spark between them which is unexpected and they clash a lot, and it’s very enjoyable to watch because they are such great actors.” But here is the question that will be asked by any viewer who was watching NSW parliament in the late ’80s and early ’90s: Is Collette playing Deirdre Grusovin or Franca Arena, both of whom campaigned for an inquiry into child abuse? Burke: “No-one’s playing anyone in particular, but she’s playing the progressive member for Sydney, though it’s before Clover Moore’s time. She’s playing a member of parliament who reaches a moral flashpoint, I guess, and decides to make a stand. Deirdre Grusovin is one of several people that have done such things in their lives, and I guess Franca Arena to a certain extent.

The reviews for “Devil’s Playground” have been very favorable. Here’s an excerpt from the New Daily’s September 7 review, which makes you all the more buzzing for tonight’s premiere: Devil’s Playground is the best show we have given the world for many years. The cast is extraordinary. Hany and Burke are joined by the likes of Toni Collette, Jack Thompson, John Noble and Max Cullen. The writing is exemplary. The production quality world class. This is a show that Australia should love, embrace and be proud of. It is important. It is high quality. It is utterly engaging. In short, Devil’s Playground is just fantastic, on every level.




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