Venue: ATYP Under The Wharf (Walsh Bay NSW), Nov 7 – 23, 2013
Playwright: David Harrower, after Arthur Schnitzler
Director: John Kachoyan
Actors: Graeme McRae, Owen Little, Clementine Mills, Matilda Ridgway, Lucy Miller, Mark Lee, Alistair Wallace
Sweet Nothings is an adaptation of a 118 year-old play by Arthur Schnitzler, the Austrian writer whose work, in more recent times, inspired David Hare’s The Blue Room and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. Under John Kachoyan’s direction, the frank sexual content that Shnitzler is known for does feature prominently in the opening scenes but fortunately no actor is subject to gratuitous nudity. This is a difficult script to manage. Its lead character Christine tends to appear “pre-feminist”, and is challenging for contemporary sensibilities. It is a tragic love story with a gender imbalance that some of us may find hard to stomach.
Playing Christine is Matilda Ridgway who is extremely committed but her understated performance is too internalised, which would probably suit film and television more than it does the stage. Owen Little is by far the strongest in this cast. He does have the most outlandish character to play with, but he more than fulfils his brief, giving the audience a playful vivaciousness that counteracts the low-key style of the leads. Mark Lee works hard to lift energy levels in the second half, and his experience shines through even if his role is fairly undemanding.
Set design by Sophie Fletcher is effective and beautiful. The transformation from an apartment in Act 1 into Christine’s home in Act 2 is well-considered and executed with elegance. The contrast between both sets helps convey character dynamics and provides colour to the plot. Not all facets of the show are quite as accomplished, but the show is in general, a polished one, and would no doubt act as a springboard for further achievements.