Venue: TAP Gallery (Darlinghurst NSW), Jul 8 – 26, 2014
Writer: Kenneth Lonergan
Director: Kevin Jackson
Cast: Tom Oakley, Dorian Nkono, Shari Sebbens, Jeremy Waters
Image by Rupert Reid
Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero is about morals, honour and lies. The play features two security guards and two police officers, and through the instability of their friend-foe relationships, it deals with human mistakes, telling the truth, and facing consequences. Kevin Jackson’s direction reveals a thorough enjoyment of words and their nuances. His work is almost entirely focused on the cast, ensuring that Lonergan’s writing is explored exhaustively in voice and movement, which results in a story told with precision and impressive detail.
The actors are strong, but in divergent ways. Jackson ensures that their performances are authentic, and gives them the freedom to portray each character to their best abilities. Jeremy Waters as Bill defines the term “show stealing”. His presence is commanding, and his work is wild and completely rambunctious. Waters is incredibly impressive and possibly faultless as the ignorantly immoral cop, and the vibrance he brings to the stage is irresistible. Dorian Nkono is an excellent comic. He plays William with hilarious irony, and delivers many moments of laughter. His timing is flawless, and his creative embellishments with speech and physicality are quite entrancing.
The two Bills are big characters played by flamboyant actors, and they are magnificent. The play however, relies on two other characters to drive home its central message. Jeff and Dawn are key to providing gravity to the work but are unfortunately often eclipsed on this stage. Tom Oakley accurately embodies the aimlessness and innocence of Jeff, but his performance is often thrown off balance by his colleagues. There is a great deal of emotional authenticity to his work, but he sometimes pitches at too subtle a level. Dawn is played by Shari Sebbens whose strengths as a dramatic actor are unquestionably alluring, but they outweigh her comedic talents. Sebben’s interpretation of her character is a truthful one, but she misses opportunities of levity that would endear her further with her audience. More light would create more contrast, so that the weightier portions of her narrative would resonate stronger.
Visual design is kept at a minimum. Costumes add to characterisations, but set and lights are merely functional. Sound design provides some effective cues to entrances, but it is also distracting at times. Some of the music choices are unsuitable, creating unnecessary discord with the action on stage. We hear the story clearly in Lobby Hero, but its moral is not articulated loud enough. More memorable are its actors and their craft. Shows are often about stars, and on this occasion, the show stealers are victorious and they have escaped scot free.