Review: Henna Night (Mercury Theatre)

mercuryVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jul 5 – 9, 2016
Playwright: Amy Rosenthal
Director: Glen Hamilton
Cast: Jane Angharad, Romney Stanton

Theatre review
Two women are brought together by their love of one man. They are not particularly inspiring people, but theatre does not have the responsibility to only give us role models. Judith and Ros are in a confrontation, both projecting their resentments onto the other, eventually finding commonality in their romantic dissatisfaction that allows them to discover a bond, unexpected of themselves, but completely predictable for their audience. They languish in all the imperfections of their love lives, but never question the futility of their efforts. Amy Rosenthal’s Henna Night is a story about desperation that shows an unflattering picture of what we look like when feeble and fallible.

It is a mildly comical work, with an emphasis on naturalism that tends to subdue the funnier lines of the script. The clash of rivals is conveyed with insufficient theatricality, but the show has a coherence that communicates logically in the absence of great dramatic tension. Actors Jane Anghard and Romney Stanton are convincing in their portrayals, if a little lacking in dynamism. The production’s shifts in mood and atmosphere could be more amplified for better sensory variation to keep us engaged further with nuances of the piece. Director Glen Hamilton attempts to unearth the truth in these women’s experiences, and is successful in bringing an honesty to the stage, but he requires more spice to accompany this overly polite creation, laden with too much sugar.

It is arguable if nice girls always finish last, but in Henna Night, we yearn for Judith and Ros to throw punches and smash vases. We want to see them lash out, because our own angers and frustrations need a safe space to experience a moment of salvation. Thespians are given the license to behave badly in their worlds of make belief, so that we can benefit from that exorcism of our shared demons. The people in the play have a message for us, but they appear gently and disappear too quietly, leaving little more than a dent in our memory.…

Review: Blink (Mercury Theatre)

mercuryVenue: 107 Projects (Redfern NSW), Apr 20 – 24, 2016
Playwright: Phil Porter
Director: Oleg Pupovac
Cast: Jane Angharad, James Smithers
Image by Jade Jackson

Theatre review
It is a love story about two unusual people. In truth, each person walking the earth is a unique creature, yet we often think of romance as a singular invariable experience. Sophie and Jonah’s relationship in Phil Porter’s Blink feels like a strange union, but only because we have come to expect little from depictions of intimacy. When taking time to observe the way people are and how we connect, we come to realise the infinite permutations of the human bond. The play feels theatrical and dramatised, but we perceive an unmistakeable honesty in its unconventional narrative. The characters are damaged, as we all are, so of course they are going to conduct their lives in slightly obscure ways. This is no Barbie and Ken fairytale, but a realistic representation of our freedom to love, and an insightful expression of how we should apply our own rules to our own intimacies.

The work is fast-paced, almost frantic in its energy, which although entertaining, can detract from more meaningful lines that require time to reverberate. Director Oleg Pupovac creates an endearing connection between the two on stage, affectionate yet distant at the same time. There is inventive use of physicality that engages us visually but more detailed work on light and sound design would enhance the presentation further. Performers are charming and enthusiastic, with strong presences that hold attention. Jane Angharad’s emotional restraint gives a sophistication to Sophie, and the gentleness with which she approaches her work translates into an effortless believability. James Smithers’ is the more vibrant of the pair, endearing with a very quirky edge to his constitution. There is an adventurous spirit to the way he explores the text that keeps us drawn into Jonah’s way of looking at the world.

There is little that can be cherished of a lonely life. Romance may not be available to all, but the need for human contact is undeniable. Sophie and Jonah find ways to make sense of their union, and although strange from the outside, their continuous redefinition of the form that their relationship takes, demonstrates the way organic beings must strike a balance as things change. Love means a myriad different things, probably because of the infinitely different needs of each individual. We may all breathe the same air, but what fills our heart is as varied as wavelengths in a spectrum of visible light.…