The Club (1978), written by David Williamson, is a satirical play that follows the fortunes and misfortunes of a football club over the course of the season. David Williamson cleverly integrates the realistic portrayal of characters and dialogue into the play in order to effectively provide the reader with an insight into the power and politics of sport and the commoditisation of players. The main themes in The Club that David Williamson communicates across to the reader are power and the concept of ‘human loyalty verses materialistic gain’, which will be explained in further detail below.
Power is also explored extensively in The Club; much of the play is based on power struggles between the characters. As mentioned earlier, the power struggle between Laurie and Jock is evidenced by Laurie’s accusation that Jock supported the committee’s traditional approach only to stop Laurie from succeeding. Obviously some of the characters are much more successful than others. For example, Gerry is able to skilfully manipulate the other characters so he can accomplish his own hidden agenda.
However the two players, Danny (the team Captain) and Geoff, do not really become involved in these power struggles except when they aid Laurie at the end of the play. Ted (the president) has the most obvious power at the start of the play, although he steadily loses it throughout as the other characters strive to improve their standing. The desire for power is basically universal, and there is resentment from those who are not in power towards those who are. These sporting attitudes have been clearly evident in sport in the last few decades.
Attitudes towards commercialism are also explored in The Club. In the play, the Club itself is just beginning the road to commercialisation with the purchase of Geoff Hayward (the star recruit) for $90,000. However, Gerry (the administrator) and Jock’s plans for next year not only include the dropping of some Club traditions, but also extensive commercialisation as wealthy entrepreneurs are recruited for sponsorship money which will be used to buy more players. Jock is a person who supports the commoditisation of players when it is in agreement with his goals.
For example when trying to avert a players’ strike, Jock claims that former Club heroes would be disgusted by the idea, “I want to turn all those photographs around so they don’t have to look down on this shameful scene. ” However, it is later revealed that Jock supports the buying of players and a coach who has not played for the Club, both of which are against traditions, to ensure that the Club wins a premiership next season. This hypocritical attitude towards tradition is probably a fairly typical Australian attitude.
This attitude presented by Williamson is probably even more widespread now, as success and the reaching of goals is seen as being even more important today. Loyalty is also an important issue in The Club, although each of the characters is loyal in very different degrees and ways. Some of the characters, like Danny, are fiercely loyal to others; for example Danny threatens a players’ strike if Laurie is forced to resign, “If that bloody committee of yours gives Laurie the boot tonight, then we don’t play tomorrow. Other characters, like Jock and Gerry, lack loyalty to other people and will manipulate and lie for their own personal advantages but are loyal to the Club as a whole. Gerry believes that, “Loyalty to any one individual is a luxury you can’t afford in a business with a multi-million dollar turnover. ” Gerry’s pragmatic attitude is perhaps typical of the attitudes which are becoming commonplace in the cutthroat business world of the 1990s. In The Club, David Williamson utilises realistic dialogue to assume convey meaning and enrich the text of the play.
Williamson achieves realistic dialogue through the constant use of many language devices including emotive language insults, interruptions, sarcasm, idioms, colloquialism, slang, irony, jargon and hyperboles. The main purpose is to depict power and domination between characters. This is done through a device such as tone, as it creates an atmosphere of tension and conflict. Tone is shown between the two most powerful characters, Gerry the football administrator and Laurie the Club’s coach.
Gerry’s tone is calm and uses very formal language, which indicated his power and control over other characters. ‘You’re scarcely in a position to be delivering ultimatums, Laurie’. Laurie also shows control by his tone and word choice. ‘If you play well enough and the team plays well enough for the rest of the year, they’ll find it pretty hard to sack me’. The tone in Laurie’s dialogue changes from exasperation to control indicating that he has become his own master. Laurie’s approach to dealing with situations shows his power and dominates.
The shift in tone of Gerry and Laurie’s dialogue emphasises the power shifts that take place in ‘The Club’. The frequent use of slang and colloquial language represents the Australian culture and way of life. Also, use of football jargon such as ‘goal-to-goal line’ shows how familiar the club members are with their sport. Another purpose shown throughout the play is the conflicting relationships between characters. Williamson has created this purpose through the use of sarcasm used by the characters.
In the first scene, Ted and Danny have come across as having a conflicting relationship as there are many problems associated with the football club. ‘This is lovely, really delightful, a strike threat’. By Ted using sarcasm it gets Danny worked up therefore has created a conflicting relationship. Danny who is a young footballer complains about how little money he has in the back. ‘I can hardly wait, I’m taking my two best friends to Pizza Palace and putting the other half in the bank’. This has added tension between the two characters, and has showed how they use dialogue to create conflicting relationships.
Sarcasm adds a feeling of resentment and reflects an unwillingness to be open to the prospect of resolution. Williamson’s portrayal of characters, even nowadays, reflects many Australian attitudes very accurately, even though the play was written many decades ago. Some of the attitudes expressed, especially those regarding the commoditisation of sport, are even more relevant today than when the play was written, while others, such as tradition, are still equally relevant in the current Australian society.
By studying ‘The Club’ it has also helped demonstrate how purposes are made by using a range of language devices such as tone and sarcasm, therefore showing how dialogue helps express its underlying theme or power and relationships. It is because of this that David Williamson’s 1978 play The Club is still being performed as it gives audiences a realistic perspective into the past, present and future of sport.