Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Oct 31 – Nov 30, 2014
Playwright: Nick Enright
Director: Adam Cook
Cast: Helen Dallimore, Belinda Giblin, Rachel Gordon, Ian Stenlake, Christopher Stollery, Jacob Warner
Image by Helen White
Nick Enright’s Daylight Saving was written at the dawn of the 1990s. Director Adam Cook’s straightforward staging in 2014 preserves its original sensibilities, but time has not moved on far enough for the play to feel like a classic. Instead, the production appears outdated despite its very polished execution on all fronts. Enright’s story about the farcical turmoil of well-to-do north shore Sydneysiders no longer bears an edge to rival the more relevant comedies of today, and its “first world problems” context can be quite grating when presented without sufficient mockery.
It is evident that Cook has an excellent understanding of the text and the way dynamics are ingrained into the dialogue. His work feels faithful to the author and to the milieu being referenced, and if produced in ten or so years, the play might come across more charming and nostalgic. Cook’s flair with actors gives the show a confidence that allows it to gleam with impressive professionalism, and the cast is an endearing one, even if the characters they play tend to be annoyingly lightweight. Leads Rachel Gordon and Christopher Stollery provide the narrative with a sturdy anchor, and a surprising authenticity, but they are also less colourful than supporting players, resulting in a loss of emotional connection with the audience.
Jacob Warner lights up the space with his entrance late in the piece as Jason Strutt, a spoilt and insolent tennis star. The part is small, but the actor leaves a lasting impression with enthusiastic and risky comedic choices. Also quirky is Helen Dallimore’s madcap rendition of the desperate girl next door Stephanie, who exists mainly to make the protagonists look good, but Dallimore’s gleeful performance is a fiercely delightful one. Belinda Giblin’s sharp humour as Bunty sees her coming on and off stage like a mini hurricane, and Ian Stenlake’s compelling mix of casanova and goofball is oddly alluring.
Daylight Saving is a story about small things that disrupt very comfortable lives. Its frivolity will certainly appeal to some, but its lightness would also prove unbearable to others. Although Enright’s comedy is not quite universal, the conviction of performances on this occasion is magnetic, and audiences will engage and respond, if only in appreciation for the vibrant energy that fills the theatre.