Not how you remember it [by Matt Baker]
For her directorial debut as Silo’s Artistic Director, Sophie Roberts has presented both Silo and Q Theatre audiences with a theatrical flavour that will (hopefully) induce a new craving on the palate of Auckland theatregoers. That’s not to say that this production has been chosen simply for its untraditional ingredients, but anyone who knows the work of playwright Tom Sainsbury will also know that he does not pull his punches.
Sainsbury’s dialogue is (and always has been) his greatest weapon as a playwright. His unabashed willingness to take things to places that we all know are there, but are not necessarily willing to go ourselves, results in a guilty pleasure when allowing his subversive characters to be held accountable when they take us there instead. There are hints of Jean Genet and Edward Albee in both the extremity and domesticity of his writing, and he brings a whole new meaning to the term Chekhov’s gun(s).
The multiple role two-hander cast structure works perfectly, with Toni Potter and Adam Gardiner complimenting each other admirably. Potter is on fire on opening night, the fullness of her characterisations and the consistency of her performance is a driving force for the play, and, while his Francois and Anthony are slightly superficial (though, admittedly, they are more caricatured roles), Gardiner’s vexation and endearment as Diane and Rupert respectively are spot on. There is an issue, however, with audibility; the accuracy of the various swallowed Kiwi accents resulting in a lack of projection.
Daniel Williams’ set design allows for clever use of the height and depth of the thrust stage, with a subtlety that hints towards the true nature of the play, and there are a variety of tricks planted throughout the set that remain invisible until put into use by the performers. This allows for the odd unpredictable injection of physical play by Potter and Gardiner, though Roberts is careful to avoid overusing the spectacle.
We spend much time watching these characters and the development of their relationships, but Sainsbury’s dialogue, Potter and Gardiner’s characterisations, and Roberts’ shaping of each scene as a part of an overarching gradually paced progression, are enough to prevent the play from stagnating. It takes 20 minutes or so before the plot kicks in, and the plot twist comes very late in the piece, which means we don’t get to see the full development of the characters once the stakes are raised. The climax also is hard and fast, and the deus ex machina of the original plot line brings the play to a swift conclusion.
This quick-fire ending could be seen as resulting in a play that is somewhat incomplete and relies on an unforeseeable twist as its only payoff, however, it is the recognition of these characters and the extremity of their actions that is the real nourishment. It would be wrong to mistake the simplicity that makes this production work as also being easy, as the script, if handled by a lesser director or pair of performers, would not necessarily produce in performance the reflection of the elements of the human condition that are imbedded in Sainsbury’s writing. The Sunday roast is an inherent part of New Zealand’s inherited culture, but this is one play that could certainly establish a new Kiwi theatre tradition.
Sunday Roast is presented by Silo and plays at Q Loft until 28 June. Details see Silo.