Review: River (The Old 505 Theatre)

old505Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Nov 18 – 23, 2014
Playwright: Claire Lovering
Cast: Claire Lovering
Workshopping and Dramaturgy: Sarah Giles
Image by Gez Xavier Mansfield

Theatre review
River is a monologue about an unassuming woman. Her life is ordinary and her stories are pedestrian, but the poignancy of Claire Lovering’s work as writer and performer, forces us to look past the subject’s plainness, and relate to River as one human being should another, with empathy and a sense of generosity. Lovering’s gentle approach means that the show’s themes are kept vague, allowing the audience to find meaning however it chooses. Her truthful revelations find resonance, even though her experiences are highly idiosyncratic. We understand and identify with the humanity that is put on display, and Lovering’s thorough exploration into her character’s quirks and desires results in something individualistic finding a universality in the theatrical space.

Performance of the work is confident and very compelling. Lovering’s will to connect with the audience ensures that all the text’s nuances are delivered with clarity, and that we always feel close to the character. There is a warm openness to the actor’s presence that sustains our attention, and we find ourselves interested in every minute detail that River is keen to share. Lovering’s talent is clear to see, but the work sits a little too comfortably within her range of abilities. Finding greater challenges for the actor would provide a unique tension that only live theatre can offer.

The very subtle work by composer and sound designer Nate Edmondson and lighting designer Benjamin Brockman might be easy to overlook, but their efficacy at controlling ambience is quite perfect. Within the understated aesthetic requirements of the production, they have found creative space to demonstrate innovation and sensitive flair.

Loneliness is a strange creature. It torments, but it is also the instigator of change, and success. River travels through life with no great plan or destination, but she stops to smell all the roses, and welcomes the gifts that she stumbles upon. The cosmos does not adhere to any individual’s demands, but it holds great promise for anyone who is willing to receive its riches.