Review: Life Without Me (Illuminate Educate)

illuminateeducateVenue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Feb 9 – 16, 2016
Playwright: Daniel Keene
Director: Cathy Hunt
Cast: Martin Broome, Annie Byron, Laurence Coy, Drew Fairley, Brendan Donoghue, Julie Hudspeth, Anne Wilson
Image by Stephen Reinhardt

Theatre review
The action takes place in a hotel, mostly in its lobby. The transient nature of this setting prompts us to look at the way we move through life; how we travel in relation to time, the people we encounter, and the meaning of ephemerality itself in personal existences that often deceive us with a feeling of permanence. Daniel Keene’s script has a surreal edge that helps skew our perspective, providing an alternative to the linearity that informs many of our understanding of the universe. The play has more than a few quirky facets, but its scenes are firmly attached to everyday concerns in a way that allow us to relate with all its characters no matter how colourful each scenario becomes.

Direction by Cathy Hunt achieves good clarity with plot trajectories and her active use of space helps keep our senses engaged, but the show is surprisingly muted. Keene’s text provides potential for a more adventurous approach, yet the production often seems to lack a greater sense of extravagance that would befit its very imaginative dialogue. Its actors tend to be restrained and polite, even though the concepts introduced veer towards something much wilder. Memorable personalities include Mrs Spence, performed by the very animated Annie Byron whose precision is a joy to watch. Her passionate demeanour and confident comic timing brings a valuable liveliness to a stage that is often too staid in tone. Also delightful is Laurence Coy as Roy who injects a convincing spontaneity to proceedings, along with a sensitive balance of consternation and optimism that we identify with.

Life Without Me is about living in purgatory, suspended in a state of limbo excluded from where the real action is. We wish for the characters to discover that the point of life is to live, to participate and to commit. We fear for their aimlessness and their indecisiveness, and we observe their passivity through the passage of time as if waiting for nothing but the arrival of certain death. At the hotel, people are always going somewhere, but they forget that they are already here.