Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Dec 3 – 21, 2014
Playwright: Jeanette Cronin
Director: Michael Pigott
Cast: Jeanette Cronin, James Lugton
The stage is a sacred space. It has endless possibilities, and many have occupied and used it for different purposes, to achieve every imaginable effect and result. Jeanette Cronin’s Tell Me Again shows a love and respect for the theatrical form and its audience, aiming to provide a moment in time with something deeply emotional, perhaps making us feel things in a way that our real daily lives are too fragile or restless to permit. Cronin’s play invites us to encounter what is truest of the human experience, by instigating a series of raw and naked visceral responses by removing the protection of narrative and logic. It is poetry in motion that encourages us to get in touch with the the spirit within that compels us toward every action, yet that internal essence seldom seeks to be the centre of attention. For these 80 minutes, we come face to face with it, and it is sublime.
Direction and design of the work by Michael Pigott creates an inviting beauty that lets us connect with the work in a place that story usually resides. He engages our curiosity and we begin to apply our own stories to what he lets us experience. Where there is emotion, there is a human need to explain and understand its origin, and it is the spectator’s own creativity that is summoned in Tell Me Again. Pigott’s work is extremely tender and sensitive, but there is also an uninhibitedness that prevents things from becoming predictable. There are instances however, where the show seems to drift away from our consciousness, as we indulge in the ideas it inspires, but it invariably pulls us back with touches of drama and passion.
Flawless performances by Cronin and James Lugton produce a couple of characters palpable in their authenticity, and stunning with chemistry. Lugton’s minimal approach strips away layers of affectation so that only the very essential is left, and exposed like fresh wounds. It is a physical manifestation of the concept of love, not always immediate and recognisable, but incredibly moving and profound at the end. Cronin is intense but quiet, with a wild and devastating power barely hidden, explosive secrets brimming under the surface. The role she plays is strange but not a stranger. In fact, the complexities Cronin displays are familiar, feeling like private flashbacks unfolding before our eyes despite the peculiarity of the play’s eccentric plot.
We cannot live in a constant state of elevated sentimentality, but leaving emotions concealed is on one hand damaging and on the other, an unfortunate deprivation. Feelings are scary things, but Tell Me Again turns them seductive and irresistible. The indulgence in sadness and melancholy is an occasional necessity, and art is its friendly abettor, but in this production, escapism is not to be found, and the pain that remains, is naked.