A Sign Of The Times (The Follies Company)

signofthetimesVenue: NIDA Parade Theatres (Kensington NSW), Sep 11 – 21, 2013
Playwright: Stephen Helper
Director: Stephen Helper
Actors: Scott Irwin

Theatre review (of preview performance, Sep 11)
One does not go to the theatre expecting the earth to move or a spiritual experience to take place, but a hope always exists in approaching the unknown darkness of a pre-show stage, that just maybe, tonight is going to be special. If once upon a time, you had seen an artist’s work that had overcome you and instilled a life long love for the arts, an unconscious yearning exists for that moment to recur. A Sign Of The Times is not perfect, but it is a play that can shake you to your core.

Like all great works of art, Stephen Helper’s script is about life. It is also about depression, and the obstacles we face that are so challenging that they stop us in our tracks and seem to be completely insurmountable. At these moments of stagnation, the mind goes into overdrive, and this is where the play starts. It features a lone character, performed by Scott Irwin , who delves into every cerebral space with themes like love, literature, poetry, mathematics, science, history, and a whole lot of philosophy. Irwin is perfectly cast as a man overflowing with palpable sadness. This is not a quality that he acts out explicitly but something that seems to manifest in his very being. Irwin’s performance is thoughtful and mature, and we benefit from him taking time with all his lines, many of which are dense and intellectual. He plays the character with tremendous, authentic and heavy emotion, but always careful to pay reverence to Helper’s words.

Helper’s direction is adventurous and dynamic. In contrast to the stasis of life in the play, Helper is effective at varying stage action to prevent anything from turning too severe or dull.  Lighting and sound together, play an important part of the story, and both are very accomplished indeed. Moments of silence are also introduced with powerful effect, and it is in those moments that the character is at his most vulnerable and the theatre feels most intimate.

A Sign Of The Times isn’t always an easy ride, but the journey into excavating the fundamental truths of life cannot be. There is a depth in Helper and Irwin’s work that is rare and incredibly moving. We understand that devastation and salvation make for good drama, but it is the way they portray these experiences, with dignity, bravery and truth, that has created something that shines bright, and eternal, like a diamond.