The framing of this intense and demanding play was a personalised video welcome by the playwright, Dawson Nichols, screened on the stage’s rear wall. It was a clever idea, which pleasantly engaged the audience, and at the same time familiarised us with the notion of displaying the illustrative animations which came at strategic moments of the action.
Director Kym Clayton achieved a lot with this production. He had cast it well and used the Domain’s large performance space to good effect, within the simple, cleverly stylised set designed by Brittany Daw. Warren McKenzie’s musical underscore also unobtrusively complemented the dialogue and action when appropriate.
The premise of the play is that two writers, Gary and Sandy, are collaborating on a fictional story. They create a scenario and two characters, Gabriella, a prostitute, and Steve, her pimp. The action thereafter concerns the mostly conflicting views and “voices” of the writers. Central to the plot is the complex nature of the various interactions, both between the writers, and with and between the characters they have invented. The conventional dramatic notion of appearance vs reality is explored and profoundly extended in this script, to the point of having us wonder which is which.
The cast handled the complexities well. Andrew Clark as Gary, and Brittany Daw as Sandy, sustained their intense roles admirably. They bounced off each other’s character’s ideas and feelings with conviction. As each writer gained a degree of dominance in the creation of the story, it was the other’s reactions – often subtle, but always compelling, that took our eye. Mostly they relied on a good variety of facial expression, but occasionally they skilfully used whole of body physicality to enhance the dialogue. It was not a matter of upstaging, but integral to the development of their unusual relationship. Although Gary and Sandy were very different in energy and intensity, Clark and Daw were well matched, equal to each other’s strengths and demands. Between them, they sustained interest and credibility, even as the plot took strange and scarcely believable turns.
The characters we saw them creating were Gabriella, confidently and compassionately played by Rose Harvey, and Steve, whose wildly varying behaviour was well captured by Thomas Filsell. These, too, were challenging roles, often dictated by the conflicting and changing views of the writers, but also requiring them to display a degree of independence. They certainly did a creditable job in that.
Choosing and working with this script was a successful step in a new direction for the Galleon Group, and while it provided moments of humour, it was a serious piece of theatre which asked entirely justifiable questions of both cast and audience.
It is well worth seeing.