Review: The Gulf (Lume Productions)

Venue: 57 Denison St (Camperdown NSW), Aug 23 – Sep 5, 2017
Playwright: Audrey Cefaly
Director: Mia Lethbridge
Cast: Brenna Harding, Diana Popovska
Image by Lucy Deverall

Theatre review
All Kendra wants to do is to go fishing, and what Betty likes best is to read, but they spend the entire day together on a boat, determined to intensify the bond between, hoping that the enactment of a romantic relationship could make their worlds feel somehow whole. Honesty and romance are not natural bedfellows, and in Audrey Cefaly’s very vulnerable The Gulf, it is revealed that to have two become one, is its own literal impossibility.

The lovers have true admiration for each other, but a strong attraction demands that they engage in a process of transformation, of the self and of the other, that renders that connection perpetually unstable. We cannot leave alone, the objects of our affection, and are compelled to interfere with, or perhaps destroy, all that we love. The act of identification, to realise the allure of someone, seems a gravitational force, that causes one to be subservient to an appetite for intrusion, and when that impulse is mutual, the tumult must only be vast.

Director Mia Lethbridge manifests a quiet but powerfully nuanced staging of the sensitive text. Its characters are not allowed to be privy to their own lapses, as in real life, those in love, can only see the good of their intentions. In the safety of each other’s company, Betty and Kendra are keen to demonstrate the sincerity of their maneuvers, but what Lethbridge allows us to see, are dimensions of inadvertent egotism and futility. Under the constant movement of Liam O’Keefe’s mesmerising lights, the women vacillate in our estimation, but it is ultimately ourselves that are always being judged.

The actors are committed to having the theatrical action contained and introspective. It is a risk to withdraw energy from their audience, but both are charismatic women, with meticulous approaches that project an uncompromising seductive power. Brenna Harding is emotionally and psychologically articulate as Betty. Her desires are clear, and her story is unambiguous and accessible. The broody Kendra is played by Diana Popovska, whose appeal is less immediate, but who becomes an increasingly intriguing personality over the duration. It is a highly accomplished presentation from the pair, and even though libidinous aspects of the relationship are not always successfully manufactured, The Gulf is a rich and rewarding piece in their hands.

Affairs of the heart, are not best understood by the mind. When we investigate deep enough, what was once sweet and delightful, quickly turns cynical. Audrey Cefaly’s play is both light and dark; it finds an understanding of human fallibility through a meditation on romance. Some of us can reconcile the two, while others will choose to see things as they are, and be resistant of such passions. However one regards this kind of love, it exists, and it will be, forever more.