BWW REVIEW: Fitting In And Finding The Family That Fits Your Life Is Pulled Into Focus In STRANGERS IN BETWEEN

BWW REVIEW: Fitting In And Finding The Family That Fits Your Life Is Pulled Into Focus In STRANGERS IN BETWEEN

Tuesday 20th February 2018, 7:30pm Reginald Theatre Seymour Centre.

Director Daniel Lammin brings Tommy Murphy's award winning Australian play STRANGERS IN BETWEEN back to the Sydney stage to consider what has and hasn't changed for young people trying to find their place in society. Presented 13 years after it debuted at Griffin Theatre Company, this new production, presented by Cameron Lukey and Don't Be Down Productions, forms part of Seymour Centre's contribution to the celebrations of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras' 40 Anniversary.

With a brilliant trio of performers, the story the teenaged country boy Shane's (Wil King) challenge of escaping a bigoted brother and equally homophobic community plays out on Abbie Lea Hough's minimalist stage. Murphy's dialogue and the three men's interactions allow the space which contains a bathtub and a metallic streamer curtain to transform into various locations in Kings Cross. Rob Sowinski's lighting moves the space from the bottle shop where Shane meets both men that will feature in his future, to the bar where he strikes up a friendship with Peter and the humble flat with no curtains where he worries that the neighbours will look in and want to steal his radio. Through seemingly simple costuming, Hough ensures the characters are easily identifiable, from Shane's baggy jeans and sandshoes to Peter's cream cable knit cardigan and Will's tight t shirt and trendy cargo pants.

Whilst Murphy notes in his entry into the program that he considers his own work to be a period piece due to the shift in technology since the work debuted in 2005, it remains important in its expression of needing to belong and needing to care for each other. Murphy considers that in a modern world Shane would turn to technology to find answers but there is the possibility that, the awkward small town teen would still approach a stranger for advice on coat hangers and homosexuality as he made do with a supper of bar snacks. The work is both hilarious in its expression of the innocent teen and confronting in the realisation that whilst having been a victim of hate, Shane still harbours the judgement and prejudice instilled in him from his upbringing causing him to hurt the people closest to him.

Wil King captures Shane's innocence and ignorance with a convincing naivety expressed in both his speech patterns and physicality. He captures the desire to please and fit in along with the immature impulsiveness of someone not in control of his emotions yet. He makes the audience feel sympathy when they learn why he left Goulburn whilst also being shocked at the hurt he inflicts on Peter and Will.

Guy Simon takes on the dual role of Will and Shane's bullying brother Ben with enough of a contrast to show the two characters but also enough similarities to capture the fact that Ben is a figment of Shane's imagination. He presents Will as confident, worldly and comfortable with his sexuality, something that Shane is still struggling with, whilst not being ready to commit to a relationship indicating he has some of his own insecurities. He captures the representation of Shane's internal struggle with wanting to see his brother and hoping he has changed with the underlying knowledge that the drugged out homophobe wouldn't really have changed as he presents the character that fluctuates between good and bad.

The stand out performance comes from Simon Burke who is deliciously wicked as Peter, the camp older man who has formed a guardian mentor type relationship with Shane. Burke has a brilliant comic timing along with fabulous physicality and facial expressions as he presents the public servant who longs for the days when he was Will's age, having lovers and living life to the full but is now facing a life where younger companions misconstrue his affection for sleaze. He captures the posh sophisticated man's amused scoffing at Shane's innocence, ignorance and amusing stories of home with brilliant quips and perfectly on point eye rolls and smirks. Somewhat isolated from his family, he finds joy in ensuring that Shane is look after himself so he makes a heartbreaking figure when Shane too misconstrues his intentions and hurts him.

Whilst STRANGERS IN BETWEEN focuses on the world of a young gay male coming to terms with not hating his own sexuality and finding a new 'family' to belong to, there is a universal relevance to anyone that has felt they don't belong. Murphy reminds us that people do better when they have other people around them and that no matter how much someone we care about hurts us, it is natural to want to look after our loved ones. This is a well-presented work with a fabulously beautiful final moment of care and belonging between the three men.


14 February - 2 March 2018

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From This Author Jade Kops

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