Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Jun 27 – Jul 27, 2014
Playwright: Vanessa Bates
Director: Shannon Murphy
Actors: Simon Corfield, Glenn Hazeldine, Julia Ohannessian, Georgia Symes
Image by Louis Dillon-Savage
Art emerges from all walks of life in Australia. The egalitarian nature of our society means that diverse voices are heard in theatres that reflect the many facets and classes that co-exist on this land. Correspondingly, stories are told that do not necessarily speak to all audiences across all spectrums of communities. Vanessa Bates’ Every Second is a well structured script with thoroughly explored characters, but their concerns are specific, and probably not as universal as initially hoped for; or perhaps, it is not always an artist’s priority and indeed responsibility, to consider how a work might be read and received. Bates’ expression of upper-middle class worries is valid, but finding the empathy from audiences might prove to be a challenge.
The story involves two married couples, both desperate to conceive. Through their crusade to fall pregnant, we observe the mechanics of the wife-husband relationship, discovering its resilience and points of weaknesses, its evolution, and struggle for longevity. Child-bearing and marriages can be alienating concepts for many, but the play does explore more general themes of love and self-fulfillment, although to a lesser extent. Shannon Murphy’s direction is careful to keep all her characters appealing in spite of their individual faults and annoyances. The people on stage, and their relationships, all feel genuine, and the pain they experience does manage to resonate even if contexts fail to connect. Indeed, Murphy’s strength is in creating vulnerability and palpable emotions that are immediate and powerful.
Andy McDonnell’s set is a visual representation of the quagmire being played out. The circular structure, reminiscent of a whirlpool or tornado, is a constant reminder of the pressure and volatility that overcomes the characters. The greatest effect of McDonnell’s design is the focus it puts on the actors by shrinking the stage, and literally containing them within the structure itself. With the assistance of lighting by Verity Hampson, the vast venue becomes intimate, thereby enhancing intensity of the dialogue and amplifying energy of performances.
Julia Ohannessian as Meg is powerful and exuberant. The woman she portrays is at time exasperating, but Ohannessian works hard to provide dignity, and manages to elevate her role from mere baby-making machine. She wins our understanding and affections, transforming a neurotic housewife into an authentic persona. Meg’s husband is played by Simon Corfield who bravely embodies a man buckling under the stress of a fractured home life. We catch Tim at a time when he can do no right, but Corfield’s portrayal is full of humanity and compassion that allows us to see him in the same forgiving light. Glenn Hazeldine delivers many surprising moments of laughter. His comic abilities are impeccable, and he keeps the show buoyant as Bill. Hazeldine’s chemistry with stage wife Jen (played by Georgia Symes) is touchingly tender, and a scene that sees their declaration of love for each other leaves a beautiful impression.
Every Second is compelling entertainment, performed by a skilled and thoughtful cast. Their story does not cater to a very wide audience, which depending on your perspective, could be a good or bad thing. Art should have no rules about social acceptability and conventions. Theatre should exist for all, even for the bourgeoisie.