Venue: Wharf 1 Sydney Theatre Company (Walsh Bay NSW), Apr 15 – Jun 8, 2013
Playwright: Joanna Murray-Smith
Director: Andrew Upton
Actors: Sarah Peirse, Robert Menzies, Harry Greenwood
Murray-Smith’s new work is complex and nuanced, exploring the anxieties of contemporary middle-class Australia. A broad range of themes are explored, from class and racial politics, to marriage, parenting and the education system.
The performance commences disappointingly with a young actor seemingly unsure of her role in the plot, yet distractingly forceful with her facial expressions. Thankfully she exits early on and allows for the stronger players to take over, but her subsequent appearances do nothing in assisting with the development of the story.
On the other hand, Sarah Peirse is wonderfully compelling in the lead role. Her thorough understanding of the character’s world and the writer’s words are impressive and she provides the audience with a generous dose of drama that is both profound and entertaining. At times, however, it looked as though she would have benefited from a less minimal set. The bareness of the stage might have established the coldness of the intellectual “ivory tower” in which the family resides, but it also demanded too much of the actors who looked stranded in empty spaces for so much of the play’s duration.
Upton’s direction is particularly strong in conveying the play’s crucial ideas. Some complicated ideas are staged and performed with palpable clarity, and this is a great achievement. Less successful are the lighter moments, especially in the first half, which come across contrived and tired. There is however, no doubt that the strength of the “important scenes” more than make up for those momentary lapses.