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BWW REVIEW: Identity, Independence And The Need To See The Whole Person Plays Out In GRAND HORIZONS

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GRAND HORIZONS

BWW REVIEW: Identity, Independence And The Need To See The Whole Person Plays Out In GRAND HORIZONS

Friday 11th June 2021, 7:30pm, Roslyn Packer Theatre Sydney

Bess Wohl's domestic comedy GRAND HORIZONS seeks to show the need to see our family members as more than the domestic relationship but rather real complete people. Under Jessica Arthur's direction, this new work, which premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in July 2019, is given an Australian twist.

BWW REVIEW: Identity, Independence And The Need To See The Whole Person Plays Out In GRAND HORIZONS The premise of GRAND HORIZONS is that Bill (John Bell) and Nancy (Linda Cropper) have recently downsized into a cookie cutter townhouse in Grand Horizons Independent Living compound. After 50 years of marriage, they have fallen into a routine of domesticity that no longer needs words so when Nancy breaks the dinner silence with "I think I'd like a divorce", Bill's simple response of "All Right" is both startling and in keeping with the apathetic approach to communication. Once the couple's two grown sons discover the news, they arrive to try to talk their parents out of their decision. Eldest son Ben (Johnny Nasser) is a high strung overworked and bossy lawyer while his younger brother Brian (Guy Simon) is the classic overindulged and spoilt 'baby' of the family whose camp flair for the dramatic is normally channeled into his job as a school drama teacher. The intervention team is rounded out by Ben's heavily pregnant wife Jess (Zindzi Okenyo), a stereotypical couple's therapist who cannot help but provide her professional opinion even when Bill and Nancy are not really interested in her touchy-feely techniques. Sitting on the peripheries of the family drama is Brian's one night stand, the confident and sexually sure Tommy (James Majoos) and Bill's dithering ditzy lover Carla (Vanessa Downing). BWW REVIEW: Identity, Independence And The Need To See The Whole Person Plays Out In GRAND HORIZONS Whilst this work is listed as a comedy, this work feels labored and lacking in purpose for much of the 2 hours of stage time. A slow reveal on Renee Mulder's expression of a sterile housing development residence with impersonal catalogue artwork, display home beige and blond wood furniture and too perfect to be real pot plants sets the tone for the remainder of the show. The slow silent domestic dance between the older couple is recognizable but the comedy of their indifference becomes tired quickly. Wohl resorts to cheap humor rather than anything particularly insightful to elicit somewhat forced laughs and the repeated attempts to gain shocked laughter with older ladies talking about sex feels overdone. While John Bell delivers an honest expression of Bill that never feels forced, the rest of the characters feel forced as if the direction has overtaken the intuitive connection between both the performers and their character and each other. The performances feel like they are being delivered in silos, even more distanced that works rehearsed during lockdown via zoom. This is in part due to way Wohl has failed to give the characters much dimension and depth, further confirmed by the way Carla's difference from Nancy is expressed by mismatched clothes which diminishes the statement of the flamboyant scarf that is discussed as a potential donation item. BWW REVIEW: Identity, Independence And The Need To See The Whole Person Plays Out In GRAND HORIZONS GRAND HORIZONS takes a long time to reach its message that we need to see people as more than the roles they may play in life, particularly the women that have historically gone from being daughters to wives and mothers but never really being allowed to be seen as their own entities. Linda Cropper and Zindzi Okenyo deliver the two powerful monologues that capture this message, but the rest of the work feels labored and an unnecessarily long story about yet another middle-class white family. Yes it is acknowledged that Arthur has gone for color-blind casting for the secondary roles but the work retains a somewhat WASPish feel due to the casting of the older generation. The most surprising part is that the somewhat outdated and stale premise of GRAND HORIZONS is that it is a relatively new work first produced in 2019.

https://www.sydneytheatre.com.au/whats-on/productions/2021/grand-horizons

Photos: Prudence Upton

BWW REVIEW: Identity, Independence And The Need To See The Whole Person Plays Out In GRAND HORIZONS BWW REVIEW: Identity, Independence And The Need To See The Whole Person Plays Out In GRAND HORIZONS BWW REVIEW: Identity, Independence And The Need To See The Whole Person Plays Out In GRAND HORIZONS

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