Review: Before The Meeting (White Box Theatre)

Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), May 21 – Jun 11, 2022
Playwright: Adam Bock
Director: Kim Hardwick
Cast: Alex Malone, Tim McGarry, Jane Phegan, Ariadne Sgouros, Tim Walker
Images by Danielle Lyonne

Theatre review
In a church basement somewhere in America, one of the world’s many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings is being held. Four individuals become friends through this process, offering support and guidance to one another, as each seeks to navigate this arduous thing called life. Adam Bock’s Before the Meeting offers a glimpse into the experience of sobriety, and by implication, the effect of alcohol consumption on some people. Bock’s writing is acutely observed, with palpably realistic characters. Alternating between funny and serious, the play is careful not to dwell too heavily in the bleak, but the insight that it ultimately delivers can feel somewhat surface.

Kim Hardwick’s direction of the show is earnest, with a gentle and benevolent humanity that underscores all the action. The quietness in approach is reflected in Chrysoulla Markoulli’s music compositions and in Pru Montin’s sound design, both appropriately subtle in their calibrations of atmosphere. Lights by Jasmin Borsovszky provide a warmth to accompany these stories of the heart, and production design by Martin Kinnane manufactures a visual realism that we can easily relate to.¬†

A uniformly impressive cast steers us through 80 minutes of emotional authenticity. Jane Phegan is particularly memorable as Gail, proving herself a remarkably thorough artist, who ensures each word of dialogue is imbued with intent and nuance. Tim McGarry turns on the charm as Ron, taking every opportunity to lighten the mood, in a production that can often be overly sombre in tone. Alex Malone brings a beautiful volatility, that demonstrates the daily precarity of trying to survive the world as Nicole. Newcomer to the support group Tim, is played by Tim Walker whose convincing naturalism is quite a wonder to behold. Ariadne Sgouros’ dramatic intensity is a very welcome inclusion, when she appears later in the piece as Angela.

The world that humans have created is evidently intolerable. It therefore makes complete sense that, from time to time, we need chemicals and substances to be able to stomach it. Problems arise when these intoxicants overwhelm, and we find one big problem adding to another. So much of our attitude in dealing with the world’s troubles, is to turn introspective and try to make changes within. We are encouraged too often to think that the problem lies with the individual self, instead of interrogating the sets of circumstances that make things terrible for many. The powers that be, will always want us to look away, so that they may plunder and exploit as they wish. The first step to addressing obstacles, is to look at the world clearly.

www.whiteboxtheatre.com.au