Encore for a bittersweet summer tale

FROM the West End to Tinsel Town, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll has never failed to impress.

And after almost 60 years, The Doll as it is known among its fans, continues to be a distinctive staple of the Australian stage and will play at Clayton's Encore theatre next month.

The show is set in Melbourne in 1953. For the 17th year in a row, two cane cutters, Roo and Barney, return to Melbourne during their lay-off.

As always, Roo's girlfriend Olive is waiting for him. But Nancy, who used to be with Barney, has tired of the life and married someone else.

Roo, who is in his 40s, is tired and wants to settle down. But Olive is adamant about things not changing.

"She's quite happy to continue the way she is," director Kevin Trask says. "She doesn't see herself as a bride. She just wants to have fun. So there's conflict between the two."

The Doll explores love in its simplest form, Trask says, which is why audiences continue to be drawn to it after more than half a century.

"People relate to it. It's just got a universal love story in there that everyone enjoys. It's beautifully written."

Trask says Encore audiences can also relate to the era the play is set in.

" It evokes memories of their courting days and it just seems to work on that level."

This is the third time Trask has been involved with The Doll.

The 70-year-old played Roo twice in his 40-year career but this will be his directorial debut.

"When you're an actor you're focused on your own role," he said.

"When you're directing, you're looking at the big picture, you're looking at every character. I've got a fabulous cast together for this."

Roo is being played by theatre veteran William Mullholland. Lee Cairnduff will portray Olive and Paris Romanis takes on the role of Barney. Gail Bradley is Barney's love interest, Pearl.

Trask encourages locals to see The Doll.

"They should come and see it because it's an Australian play ... that entertains the audiences but [in] the end, leaves them thinking about what they've seen."

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