BWW Review: RIDE & FOURPLAY Pairs Two Poignant Plays About Relationships And Identity.
Wednesday 9 September 2015, 7:30pm, Eternity Playhouse, Darlinghurst
Director Anthony Skuse has paired two of Jane Bodie's plays RIDE & FOURPLAY to emphasize the vulnerability and fragility of relationships as people deal with pasts, presents and perceptions. Utilizing a unique stage and a powerful cast, the works expose truths that sit below the surface but aren't examined till they are laid bare before the audience.
On entering the theatre, the most striking image, beyond the bed with blankets covering bodies, surrounded by a gathering of odd chairs, boxes and drawers, is the rake of the stage, risen and askew, off the main stage floor. The space Eternity Playhouse stage has been left bare around this raised rectangle exposing the historic altar alcove. Along with providing an interesting vertical variety, and a fascination that things aren't sliding down the slope, it reinforces to the confusion and displacement felt in both works.
RIDE is beautifully comic but somewhat sad story of a couple that discover themselves naked, in bed, the morning after, with no recollection of how they got there, or who the other person is. Emma Palmer is the young woman, panicking as to what they did or didn't do the night before, horrified that she's ventured into a stranger's bed in, of all suburbs, Tempe. Tom O'Sullivan is the young man who seems less concerned about the stranger and is actually quite comfortable with her presence, both emotionally and physically. As they try to piece together how they met, there are knowing laughs from the audience as truths about the morning after escape are discussed and played out, but she doesn't quite make it to the door, instead staying and sharing stories about their lives and past loves over toast and scrabble. Palmer and O'Sullivan capture the rollercoaster of emotions that wash over the pair as they flip between making the most of the situation, being sociable, being polite, seeing if there is something more, and being angry and disappointed when they realize that the one night of companionship is probably just that and they must face the reality of their lives. They present the duo with a sensitive realness and you can't help but feel for them as they get to the heart of their loneliness.
FOURPLAY strips away any set to play out on the bare slanted stage. The four characters list off the names of their exes before Tom (Tom O'Sullivan) in chinos and button down shirt and Alice (Gabrielle Scawthorn) in skinny jeans and nondescript t-shirt launch into reading lines and discussing a script. The other two actors move to the sidelines as Tom and Alice discuss the play about two people in love, whilst directing their conversation straight out to the audiences instead of interacting together. The cracks in their relationship start to show before the other woman, Natasha (Emma Palmer) in fitted jeans and curve emphasizing top continues reading lines with Tom. As actor Tom rehearses with actress Natasha, still all spoken direct to the audience, Alice looks on, uncomfortable with the perceived intimacy of the interaction. As Alice fails to connect with Tom as she recounts her day as a care worker, the 4th character maintains his position at the rear of the stage, observing everything. The 4th character, Jack (Aaron Glenane) turns out to be Alice's colleague in caring for the unseen Anna, finally meeting as their shifts now run after each other. As Alice's relationship is crumbling as she suspects Tom's late nights drinking after rehearsals are something more, she gets to know Jack who has his own peculiarities. The direction of conversation for most pairings is out to the audience with the exception of Jack and Alice, the only real connection without hiding or accommodating the partner. Scawthorn gives Alice a distasteful unlikableness as she makes assumptions about Tom's relationship with Natasha and lashes out at Jack but eases as she finds that Jack actually cares for her. O'Sullivan presents Tom as a somewhat confused character who thinks he is trying to make Alice happy but due to his self-absorbed nature, misses the point and is pushed into Natasha's seductive arms as he seeks the affection that Alice withholds. Palmer's Natasha is a tough man eater that enjoys the hunt but doesn't want the trappings beyond the physical. Glenane's Jack is endearing in his reserved social ineptness, making it hard to dislike him even after his revelation. His facial expressions as he responds to the other conversations that play out are delightful.
Both works examine relationships, assumptions and the desire to present ourselves in the best way possible, hiding unpleasant truths. RIDE's girl wants to be seen as the ex-girlfriend ok with her childhood sweetheart marrying someone else. The guy hides the impact that his ex-girlfriend leaving had on him, not wanting to feel rejection again. FOURPLAY's Alice wants to be seen to be doing something good for other people with her career change from actress to care worker. She doesn't want Jack to know the bleakness of her home life as she concocts a story of a happy single woman enjoying yoga and being free of sleeping complaints. Tom cannot see his own self-absorption as he takes Alice for granted and then expects that Natasha wants him for more than his body. Natasha is unapologetic about her man eater behavior after she has lured Tom into making Alice's accusations true. The only one that is truly honest in both works is FOURPLAY's Jack who, whilst revealing shocking truth, is honest and unapologetic about his life.
RIDE & FOURPLAY are two beautifully presented works that capture humanity in two markedly different performance styles whilst negotiating common themes that are easily relatable. The blend of humor and hurt is well balanced ensuring an enjoyable night whilst still giving the audience something to ponder.
Eternity Playhouse, 39 Burton Street, Darlinghurst
4 September - 4 October 2015
Photos: Robert Catto