Review: Lilac (Kings Cross Theatre)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jun 24 – Jul 9, 2022
Playwright: Jackson Used
Director:
Shane Anthony
Cast:  Jack Angwin, Kate Skinner
Images by

Theatre review
Two people fall in love, but one is an addict. In Jackson Used’s Lilac, we encounter a love that does not conquer all, in fact it is quite the opposite. Diana and George are not the lucky ones. Instead of their union helping them become better persons, both experience continual deterioration, yet the forces that draw them together are strong and resolute. This ill-fated relationship is rendered convincingly by playwright Used, through a series of two-hander scenes that fluctuate between compelling and mundane. The dialogue steers clear of sensationalism, which makes for a show that can sometimes feel insufficiently dramatic, but Lilac bears an air of authenticity that invites us to consider its ideas with commensurate circumspection.

Shane Anthony’s direction of the piece too, is reliant on establishing a sense of truthfulness, to appeal to our appetite for examining a deeper humanity. More refinement is needed however, for transitions between scenes, to prevent our concentration from being repeatedly disrupted. Set design by Adrienne Andrews delivers a simple white box that helps our imagination accommodate the many spatial transformations required of this 90-minute play. Melancholic lights by Saint Clair, along with a sensual sound design by Chrysoulla Markoulli, create moments of transcendent beauty, to accompany the intensifying tragedy.

Jack Angwin and Kate Skinner play the lovers, both performers wonderfully intricate and persuasive with all that they bring to the stage. Angwin’s extraordinary level of commitment ensures that we see only characters telling a story, and that the actor’s work is skilfully hidden from sight. Skinner brings power to the role of Diana, able to convey her weaknesses as human vulnerability, to be understood and not to be blamed.

It is true that when one falls in love, so much can simply go out of control. It is not entirely true however, that one cannot help but fall in love. We watch Diana keep getting sucked back into the abyss of a life with George, and each time we will for her to walk away. Perhaps it is easier said than done, to stop oneself from loving. or perhaps these are lessons that one can only learn the hard way, and both Diana and George will one day be able to stay out of trouble, after years of toxic embroilment.

www.sandpaperplane.com

Review: Pit (The Old 505 Theatre)

Venue: The Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Feb 25 – Mar 1, 2020
Playwright: Jackson Used
Director: Mikala Westall
Cast: Tony Barea, Margarita Gershkovich, Briony Williams
Images by Morgan Moroney

Theatre review
Bridget’s only daughter has been abducted. Needless to say, the aftermath is traumatic, and as we see in Jackson Used’s Pit, a constant state of disorientation and pain. One can attempt to find ways to move on, but there is no escaping the all-consuming damage that must result from an incident like this. Bridget tries on every kind of survival mechanism, none of which proves satisfactory, and we must confront the idea that when things go this bad, no solution can exist. It becomes a case of sink or swim, and we see that the remaining hope is about resilience and spirit, even if all they do is to keep a person breathing.

Direction by Mikala Westall is often imaginative, although a bolder approach is necessary for a more dramatic experience. Actor Briony Williams does most of the heavy lifting, focused and purposeful in the lead role. Tony Barea plays the lost girl’s father Serge, a surprising performance that has us won over at the end. Margarita Gershkovich provides sturdy support in a number of smaller parts, able to engage the audience without causing distraction from the central plot and character.

The emotions displayed on stage can feel slightly restrained, but theatre should not ask of its makers, thorough authenticity under all circumstances. What Bridget has to go through, is beyond inhumane, and no actor should have to take on anywhere near that level of torment. There are techniques however, that can help the show convey greater intensity, so that we may come closer to the reality being rendered, even if bells and whistles, smoke and mirrors are how we can get there.

www.old505theatre.com