21/05/2012 at 1:35 pm Leave a comment

presented by Company B, Belvoir St Theatre, Upstairs, May 2012

The black-on-white imagery of the first key scene between the main players of this bizarre love-triangle capture a starkness and distant emotional sterility evident in the portrayal of Nina in this modernisation of the O’Neill psychodrama (for want of a better word – tragicomedy is woefully insufficient). As the actors shift around the stage your retinas find ghostly remainders of such high contrast as to resemble the very same spirits of the lingering past that haunt these central characters so doggedly. The effect is disconcerting at first. Detached, and endemic to the director’s style of timeless, placeless mise-en-scene. For an audience it becomes necessary to reach into their own memories to find context, and as such it becomes an easier reach to empathise into what is indeed a strange dark interlude of sacrifice and solipsism.

It’s that detachment of self which recurs throughout her journey, buffeted by the choices of the men in her life until the final, sinking, cyclic glimpse of a freedom found not but a moment too late. In his adaptation Stone has tapped into probably the most difficult undercurrent in modern Australian society, and the most pervasive: that of mental illness and depression. The metaphor is simple enough, to be free – truly free – we must abandon the ghosts of our histories, our genealogies, our experiences. So long as these things yoke us unto submission to the world’s expectations we can never take true responsibility for our lives. This is the tragedy of Nina’s story that irrespective of her being right, wrong or ill-advised in her choices; the legacy of self-doubt seems to be passed on whether she likes it or not. The closing scene and accompanying questions that are posed make that perfectly clear even if (or perhaps because) they don’t spell out the kind of closure an audience might crave after investing so much in this woman’s journey. One woman’s sense of relief is another’s looming anxiety – for so long as she’s defined by the relationships she has with men there will be no self-determination. And the legacy is passed on in the touching – if altogether unsettling denoument.

There are some jarring moments in the script which switches between naturalistic dialogue and the internal thoughts, and a few cuts here and there wouldn’t go astray – but it’s our severe privilege to second guess writers from the armchair position. Fine performances all-round make it well worth your time and exploration.

STRANGE INTERLUDE presented by Company B, upstairs at the Belvoir St Theatre. Written by Simon Stone after Eugene O’Neill. Directed by Simon Stone. Featuring Akos Armont, Emily Barclay, Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke, Mitchell Butel, Callum McManis, Kris McQuade, Eloise Mignon, Anthony Phelan, Toby Schmitz and Toby Truslove. Playing until June 17th.

Entry filed under: Inside Theatre REVIEWS, Sydney THEATRE. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .


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