Review: Henna Night (Mercury Theatre)

mercuryVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jul 5 – 9, 2016
Playwright: Amy Rosenthal
Director: Glen Hamilton
Cast: Jane Angharad, Romney Stanton

Theatre review
Two women are brought together by their love of one man. They are not particularly inspiring people, but theatre does not have the responsibility to only give us role models. Judith and Ros are in a confrontation, both projecting their resentments onto the other, eventually finding commonality in their romantic dissatisfaction that allows them to discover a bond, unexpected of themselves, but completely predictable for their audience. They languish in all the imperfections of their love lives, but never question the futility of their efforts. Amy Rosenthal’s Henna Night is a story about desperation that shows an unflattering picture of what we look like when feeble and fallible.

It is a mildly comical work, with an emphasis on naturalism that tends to subdue the funnier lines of the script. The clash of rivals is conveyed with insufficient theatricality, but the show has a coherence that communicates logically in the absence of great dramatic tension. Actors Jane Anghard and Romney Stanton are convincing in their portrayals, if a little lacking in dynamism. The production’s shifts in mood and atmosphere could be more amplified for better sensory variation to keep us engaged further with nuances of the piece. Director Glen Hamilton attempts to unearth the truth in these women’s experiences, and is successful in bringing an honesty to the stage, but he requires more spice to accompany this overly polite creation, laden with too much sugar.

It is arguable if nice girls always finish last, but in Henna Night, we yearn for Judith and Ros to throw punches and smash vases. We want to see them lash out, because our own angers and frustrations need a safe space to experience a moment of salvation. Thespians are given the license to behave badly in their worlds of make belief, so that we can benefit from that exorcism of our shared demons. The people in the play have a message for us, but they appear gently and disappear too quietly, leaving little more than a dent in our memory.

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