Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Aug 24 – Sep 11, 2022
Director: Brendon McDonall
Cast: Danielle Cormack, Nicole Da Silva, David Franklin, Joshua Shediak
Images by Kasper Wensveen
It is New Year’s Day 2020, Australia is on fire, and a highly contagious virus is approaching. 2 couples are in a very upper class home, making efforts to fall pregnant. Sarah Walker’s Who’s Afraid is a sex comedy of sorts, involving lesbians Georgia and Nikki, trying to make babies with their gay acquaintances David and Marty, at a time when the world seemed intent on burning itself to the ground.
The concept is fiercely satirical, for a culture that remains staunchly reverential about human procreation, but execution of the idea is ambivalent at best. There is little about the play that feels sufficiently critical of its characters, so the humour resides instead, with the clumsiness surrounding their negotiations and their various attempts at insemination.
Who’s Afraid has its compelling moments, especially when it makes references to Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf and lets the couples get dark with their arguments, but its real focus is on delivering laughs with the comedy, which tends to be broad and obvious. Directed by Brendon McDonnall, who although leans in on the corniness, ensures that the story is told with clarity and a degree of nuance.
Production design by Grace Deacon is visually appealing, but the assemblage of the house’s multiple rooms on one small stage, proves a real challenge. Martin Kinnane’s lights provide a convincing sense of dimension, for the contrasting tone of each sequence, and Pru Montin’s sound design further enhances the show’s comic qualities.
The cast is energetic, and admirably invested in the piece. Danielle Cormack and Nicole Da Silva play Nikki and Georgia respectively, both with captivating presences, and a rambunctious approach that seizes our attention. David Franklin is Marty, similarly intense and almost forceful, in his need to elicit laughter. Joshua Shediak is a more relaxed performer, but no less magnetic as David, impressively demonstrating that restraint is necessary, when everything else is already spelling it all out for the audience.
The play’s hesitancy at making stronger and more rigorous arguments, against people having children, is its own worst enemy. An opportunity to be incendiary and controversial, is given up in favour of creating something frivolous, that ultimately offers little to ruminate on. There is no need for any finality to debates on bringing babies into a messed up world, but impassioned discussions on the matter, are certainly the right thing to encourage.