Venue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Nov 7 – 30, 2013
Playwright: Gerry Greenland
Director: Allan Walpole
Actors: Kim Knuckey, Lynden Jones
Image by Geoff Sirmai
Every show is a collaborative effort comprised of many disciplines and disparate elements, but in The Maintenance Room, the actors’ performances are so fine that it is hard for the audience to focus beyond their spectacular work. Gerry Greenland’s script has an excellent plot that never gives room for any predictability, and its every twist and turn keeps us engaged and fascinated. The story might not be particularly interesting, but Greenland’s storytelling is calculatedly clever. However, his depiction of the two women characters (who we hear a lot about but do not appear on stage) disappointingly utilises the madonna and whore dichotomy, which is convenient and somewhat regressive.
Allan Walpole is director and set designer, and he does both jobs marvelously. The set is complex, realistic and believable, providing a wide variation of levels and spaces for movement and activity during performance. Walpole’s work as director is much more subtle. He wields an invisible hand through the show, but we see extraordinary chemistry between the actors, and their many dialogues are timed to perfection. It is impossible to divorce the actors abilities from Walpole’s direction, but he must be given credit for the liveliness they bring from start to finish, even when the scenes are quiet and sorrowful.
The Maintenance Room is really about the actors, Kim Knuckey and Lynden Jones. Their portrayals of the complicated experience of human suffering, and the constant shifting of emotions in that space of grief and fear, are incredibly real and compelling. Jones masterfully manipulates physical performance and internal authenticity, accurately balancing emotional realism with theatricality. Knuckey’s work impresses with the remarkable believability of his character. The being he creates on stage is palpable, and the rawness of his crisis is felt as undeniable as the flesh and blood right before our eyes.
Theatre is about many things, but when it is about stunning performances, the experience is immensely rewarding. Most of us are likely to remember that when we fell in love with the stage, it was the work of actors who first drew us in. Great acting is divine, and The Maintenance Room is magnificent because of it.