Venue: SBW Stables Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jun 14 – Jul 1, 2017
Playwright: Suzie Miller
Director: Anthony Skuse
Cast: Emma Jackson, Simon Lyndon, Lex Marinos, Georgina Symes
Image by Patrick Boland
Phoebe has lost custody of her children, due to a history of illicit drug use. Her sister Caroline has been battling cancer, while dealing with a relationship breakup. Their father Ray is suffering dementia. Life is hard, as we well know, but it is not all doom and gloom with these sisters. They are determined to get on with it, making the best of the cards they were dealt.
In Sunset Strip, playwright Suzie Miller brings a family together at a time when they are in desperate need of each other’s support. None of them realises this kindred reliance of course, for it is easy to take these relationships for granted, and like many of us, Phoebe and Caroline have resentments, jealousies and unresolved issues from the past, so their reunion was always going to be precarious.
Miller’s detailing of that delicate balance, between joy and pain in how they love, is full of tenderness, subtle but powerful. Their interchanges are nuanced, splendidly complex, and always with a gentle, familiar ring that will remind us of our own homes. When families talk, it is what we say between the lines that matters most, and Sunset Strip‘s sensitive explication of those dynamics, is what makes it feel like every person’s story.
Director Anthony Skuse’s quiet approach to storytelling is a perfect fit for the play. In this intimate venue, the drama envelopes as it unfolds, and we fall deeper and deeper into its emotional grip. Skuse’s work for Sunset Strip transcends the need for a dominant narrative, getting us to the heart of its characters by simply presenting four individuals who are so thoroughly authentic and vulnerable, that finding a meaningful connection with them is inevitable. This is theatre at its most moving (sans manipulative show tunes and fantastical storylines), made even more affecting by audience members sobbing uncontrollably in neighbouring seats.
Emma Jackson and Georgina Symes play the siblings, both laid bare spectacularly, allowing us to peer right into their fractured souls. The part of their ailing father is performed by Lex Marinos, who has us transfixed in the precision of his approach, and heartbroken by his depiction of a parent who can no longer provide guidance and care. Simon Lyndon is the love interest who offers much more than meets the eye, with an ability to introduce disarming and devastating poignancy, when you least expect it. These actors are truly wonderful.
No amount of love, can prevent people from growing apart, but it is in the capacity to make sacrifices, that the depths of love is revealed. Love is not about holding tight, in fact, it is more often about letting go, but there will come moments where people are required to sit together, maybe to laugh, or maybe to fight, so that love can do its job. When life turns too hard, loneliness will only add fuel to fire. Not every problem will have solutions, but a warm embrace makes everything, miraculously, easier.