Review: The Credeaux Canvas (Lambert House Enterprises)

lamberthouseVenue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Jan 29 – Feb 14, 2015
Playwright: Keith Bunin
Director: Ross McGregor
Cast: Emilie Cocquerel, Carmen Duncan, Felix Johnson, James Wright

Theatre review
In Keith Bunin’s The Credeaux Canvas, the commodification of art and youthful ambition are explored through the intertwined lives of three young Americans in 2001 New York City. This is a story of broken dreams and deceit, as well as the often underplayed hardships of growing up. On the surface, Bunin’s characters have everything in the world going for them, each with talent, intelligence and social access, but they make choices that are doomed from the start, and all have to pay the price for their mistakes. The play delves into relationships and events, but leaves us to question the ways humans err, and to investigate what it is that likens us to the moth that gets burned by a flame.

This is a handsome production, beautifully and thoughtfully designed to evoke an accurate sense of time, space, and drama. Emma Vine’s set of a dilapidated apartment is executed with sophistication and flair, and lighting by Liam O’Keefe adds variety and nuance to scenes with careful subtlety. A highlight of the show is music by Christopher Gordon, who takes charge of scene transitions with great imagination and impressive elegance.

Ross McGregor directs the show with a passionate sensibility. He tries to keep scenes active and lively, but is restricted by individual abilities of his cast. Leading lady Emilie Coquerel is polished and energetic, but her character never feels believable enough, although it must be said that her transformations are depicted with good clarity. The key role of Winston is played by James Wright, who brings a natural naiveté to the painter’s wide-eyed entrance into adulthood. Both Coquerel and Wright can be overly self-conscious, most notably in a nude scene where the actors engage uncomfortably in a long conversation, revealing not much more than their bodies.

Felix Johnson is a dynamic performer who shows great commitment in his supporting part of Jamie, with an endearing emotional volatility that allows us to identify and engage with his narrative. Veteran actor Carmen Duncan appears in just one scene, but blinds the audience with her formidable talent and skill. She plays art collector Tess with sensational presence and brilliant humour, captivating the crowd in a way that only extensive experience and that enviable star quality can.

Death is mentioned several times in The Credeaux Canvas, and indeed, life is short, and although we only have one chance at it, mistakes are made so that they can be rectified, and through regret, we can grow. There is a darkness to the play’s conclusion with its characters finding themselves at a juncture where they can either continue on roads of destruction, or make a change for the better. It is a significant point in time for them, but their story gives us the knowledge that every moment is an opportunity to move, from the dark to the light.