Review: Plaything (The Depot Theatre)

depotVenue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Mar 30 – Apr 16, 2016
Playwright: Simon Dodd
Director: Julie Baz
Cast: Caspar Hardaker, Michael Harrs, David Jeffrey, Cherilyn Price, Cherrie Whalen-David
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
Two people walk onto the stage by accident and find themselves unable to escape the audience’s gaze. They become stars of the night’s play, not by choice but by circumstance. Much like how we live our lives, we are the protagonists of our stories not by our own choosing, but because we are brought into existence for reasons entirely beyond our control. The characters cannot resist the urge to create meaning and to achieve a sense of coherence, so that time can be filled with some semblance of reason and purpose, even though they know with absolute certainty that an end will come. Simon Dodd’s thoughtful script is joyful and amusing. Its existential concerns are rendered with a gentle touch so that the viewing experience remains light and upbeat, but his work leaves enough food for thought to prevent the show from becoming too frivolous. There is very funny dialogue to be found, and although its structure can be more refined, Dodd’s meticulous writing ensures that Plaything provides entertainment at every moment.

The show’s lead performers are equally strong, but in different ways. Cherrie Whalen-David is precise in her approach, and presents a well-rehearsed interpretation of her role that always seems considered and purposeful. David Jeffrey’s appeal is in the quality of mischief that he brings to the stage, and the important sense of play that he introduces into the creation of comedy for his audience. The humour in Plaything is most effective when we feel a genuine and lively impulse within its comic timing. In spite of the absurdist nature of its context, the show requires an authentic presence, a genuine sharing of time and space between audience and actors, for it to be truly engrossing. Direction of the work by Julie Baz is vibrantly energetic, with an urgency that keeps us engaged and intrigued. The plot’s unpredictability is well utilised to keep the show one step ahead of us, so that pleasant surprises steadily emerge.

There is a lot of fun to be had at Plaything. It is a clever script that demands a lot of its actors, and when they hit their mark, results are thoroughly satisfying. It is on one hand unafraid to be philosophical, and on the other, more than a little fond of sophomoric humour. We discover that drawing parallels between the creative process and the living of life itself can be just as funny as watching people drink copious amounts of urine. We also learn that the matter of taste is completely subjective, even where bodily fluids are involved.