Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Oct 31 – Nov 29, 2015
Playwright: Nick Enright
Director: Iain Sinclair
Cast: Taylor Ferguson, Lucy Goleby, Anthony Gooley, Stephen Multari, Jamie Oxenbould, Toni Scanlan
Image by Helen White
In Nick Enright’s Good Works, we are often confused about time and characters. It is a deliberate ploy to have us focus on what people are doing to each other, regardless of when things had taken place or who those people might be. It probes us to consider if contexts matter when we are unkind. It talks about how we treat children, and how behaviour is perpetuated beyond the illusion of growing up. The play’s plot structure is perhaps its most interesting feature. The story and its themes are not unusual or spectacular, but through its highly inventive way of communication, we are required to relate to its ideas on a level of intimacy. If we do not have certainty about characters, we can only understand events by applying them conceptually, to our selves.
Director Iain Sinclair’s construction of space through Hugh O’Connor’s complex multi-tiered platforms is theatrical magic. The constant profusion of movement, visual depth and dimension is an aesthetic joy, and also an effective mechanism for providing demarcation for minute scene transitions. Sinclair’s knack for creating dramatic tension and his ability to extract meaning from them, ensures that the play unfolds with a gravity necessary for its poignant messages to hit home.
It is a strong cast that presents this challenging work. Each player is required to embody a range of ages and personalities, and although not every scene is equally powerful, there is no questioning the authenticity and thoughtfulness of their approach to individual parts. Lucy Goleby leaves an impression with studied stillness on a stage buzzing with energetic activity. Her eyes are, on more than one occasion, our sole focus as they convey quiet but intense emotion. Taylor Ferguson brings remarkable exuberance and strength to a character who faces multiple setbacks. The resilience and fallibility of humanity that she demonstrates is touching, and beautiful.
There is not much point to life if we do not try to do good, but Good Works shows us the conflict and complications that occur in communities when flawed individuals try to do their best within their inevitable limitations. We examine how it is that we can come to conclude which decisions are best, without resorting to convenient solutions that religions are keen to provide, and we question if there is possibility for behaviour to be anything else than emulation. Whether Enright’s play is pessimistic or otherwise, would depend heavily on one’s own outlook on life.