By CAMERON LUCADOU-WELLS
Actor John Wood plays a leading figure in a football club’s boardroom bloodshed in a reprise of Australian playwright David Williamson’s classic The Club.
Wood, best known as a straight-laced cop in Blue Heelers, takes a Machiavellian turn as a disgruntled ex-president — who was also an ex-coach and ex-player — who haunts the club, backstabbing its coach and administrators.
One of Wood’s former directors dubbed the character ‘Emperor Jack’.
“His career is over. He’s far too old to be still a coach or player, but he’s got a big ego — as do most of the characters,” Wood says.
“He thinks of himself as the rightful president, the rightful owner of the club. He just white-ants people all over the place.”
There were plenty of potential AFL and VFL role models for the character. Wood settled initially for ex-Richmond great Jack Dyer.
“He was a jovial hard man, a very tough guy. He’s someone who goes through the pack like a Leigh Matthews. He barrels in on the ground and through life.”
The brutal politics may be set in the 1970s, but they still resonate. Just ask followers of Melbourne Football Club.
It’s the fourth time Wood has played the role, dating back to a Melbourne Theatre Company production in 1998. He says each production has coincided with a real-world football assassination.
“The play’s always been relevant. David [Williamson] was quite prescient. He had such a feeling for the way football was going to go. The money being bandied around and footballers becoming professionals. It’s extraordinary how funny it is, just from the reading of it.”
Still in rehearsals ahead of the tour’s premiere in Dandenong, Wood says this adaption has a new feel: set in a claustrophobic wood-panelled office with no windows, and reverting to the nameless club’s gaudy purple and gold jumper.
“Everyone associated the club with Collingwood, but that wasn’t the case in the original script.”
The Club is at Drum Theatre, corner Lonsdale and Walker streets, Dandenong, on April 26, 8pm. Bookings: 9771 6666 or drumtheatre.com.au.
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