Review: Bright Half Life (Meraki Arts Bar)

Venue: Meraki Arts Bar (Darlinghurst NSW), Feb 2 – 19, 2023
Playwright: Tanya Barfield
Rosie Niven
Cast: Genevieve Craig, Lisa Hanssens, Loretta Kung, Samantha Lambert 
Images by Becky Matthews

Theatre review

Erica and Vicky are each other’s greatest love story, but like most love stories, theirs is one that feels just a bit mundane to everybody else. Tanya Barfield’s Bright Half Life is concerned with the big romance in a person’s life, both the enormity and normalcy of such an experience. The non-linear aspect of the storytelling helps draw us into the women’s decades-long narrative, but the sheer ordinariness of their union, makes for a theatre that seems somewhat unremarkable.

Direction by Rosie Niven brings clarity to both the unconventional timeline, and the emotional fluctuations, as we encounter key moments in the evolution of Erica and Vicky’s life together. The presentation struggles to convey some of the play’s humorous dimensions, but its central gravity is certainly well communicated. Lights by Capri Harris bring much needed visual variation, and sound design by Akesiu Ongo Poitaha helps us envision the many places and years, as we accompany the couple on their reminiscence.

Genevieve Craig and Samantha Lambert play respectively, Vicky and Erica in their younger days, both detailed in their explorations of women in love. As they grow older, we see the roles go to Lisa Hanssens as Erica and Loretta Kung as Vicky, who manufacture a more intimate and tender connection. Performances are slightly too earnest in parts, but all four prove themselves accomplished actors, in a play that provides ample opportunity to demonstrate skill and acumen.

Bright Half Life reminds us of the centuries of absurdity, and cruelty, when same-sex marriages were thought of as abominable. In a few short years since its legalisation in Australia, so much has changed culturally and ideologically; it is now hard to fathom the immense difficulty with which so many normal relationships had faced to simply attain recognition, just because they were queer. Normal can be boring, but sometimes the road to normalcy is the most arduous imaginable. |