Cristina In The Cupboard (Subtlenuance)

cristinainthecupboard1Venue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Jul 4 – 14, 2013
Playwright: Paul Gilchrist
Director: Paul Gilchrist
Actors: Sylvia Keays, Stephen Wilkinson, Alice Keohavong, Helen Tonkin, Peter McAllum, Kelly Robinson, Sonya Kerr, Sinead Curry

Theatre review
Cristina is spending time in her cupboard, and she invites us in to witness her thoughts as she searches for explanations and meanings of life. Surrounding her are a host of friends and family who live unexamined lives, and we see exactly what she is retreating from. Paul Gilchrist’s script is poignant and beautiful. Cristina’s philosophising is gentle but true, and the ideas being discussed delve deeply into crevices of our minds that we know exist but do not often acknowledge. Gilchrist’s excavation into the human psyche is a creative process but he is guided by honesty, which is the key to his writing being accessible to all.

Leading lady Sylvia Keays is earnest and full of conviction. She gives her character a childlike quality, and that innocence encourages her audience to listen with the same wide eyed wonder and openness. Helen Tonkin plays Cristina’s mother Gwen with soulfulness and warmth, and is memorable in several moving scenes that highlight family dynamics. Sinead Curry’s performance as the minxish Belinda gives the play a cheery vibrancy, and her comedic talents help a great deal with the entertainment value of the show.

In fact, all performances are strong and effective, but direction of the work tends to rely heavily on the words, with visual aspects sometimes left under-explored. There is a lot of space in the script for more imaginative expression and adventurous flights of fancy but instead the actors are often left in contexts of realistic dialogues, and their lines are sometimes drowned out by even more lines. On occasions where breathing space is provided, Gilchrist’s genius lines really do ring through the air with their strong resonances. Cristina In The Cupboard is a timeless work that speaks with intellectual and emotional clarity, and should be staged every place there is a thinking audience.