Festival Review: Thursday

Thursday_Brink_Productions_and_English_Touring_Theatre_Adelaide_Festival_mediumPresented by Brink Productions and English Touring Theatre
Reviewed Saturday 2nd March 2013

This play, by Bryony Lavery, is a world premiere and is inspired by the suicide bombings of 2005 in London and by Gill Hicks, an Australian from here in Adelaide who survived, but lost her legs in the attacks.

Chris Drummond directs a superb cast, with Paul Blackwell, Emma Handy, Martin Hutson, Lena Kaur, Tom Mothersdale, Kate Mulvany, Nathan O’Keefe, Deidre Rubenstein, and Rochenda Sandall playing a number of couples, and an elderly lady suffering dementia, who are going about their daily routines, starting from the time when they awake.

Dan Potra’s set, a large bed in the centre, doors either side, and a scrim curtain so that we can see beyond into the kitchen and bathroom, serves as the various homes for each of them. The cast uses the space effectively as each gets ready for the day. On the one hand they do not acknowledge the existence of the other couples, Maintaining the illusion of a number of homes, and on the other hand they voice the thoughts of individuals who are not part of their couple, a clever idea that lets us know what each is thinking as distinct from what they are saying and doing. Eventually they leave, to do whatever occupies their day. Some of them travel by underground railway, the tube.

A quick manipulation of the set and we find them waiting for their tube train, which arrives, they board, it departs, and the suicide bomber does his destructive work. Rescuers arrive, and the living are rushed to hospital. Another set manipulation and we are at the hospital, watching the staff trying to keep up with the enormous job facing them. The final scene, a year later, is the same version of the set as the opening and focuses mostly on Rose, who has lost her legs, and her relationships with the nurse who has become her friend, and her ex-partner.

The use of actors to express the thoughts of others, alongside the dialogue, adds greatly to the understanding of these people, and the effects that the terrorist attack has on them, beyond the obvious deaths and injuries. We see the immediate and long term effects on both those involved in the bombings and those who were not, but have a relationship with those who were. Physical incapacitation is one thing, but the trauma is not so easily seen and dealt with, and can go on for the rest of a person’s life, and we see this expressed in various ways in this work.

Colin Grenfell’s lighting cannot go unmentioned, as it creates the various spaces, at various times of the day of the incident, as well as supporting the emotional intensity of the various scenes. Equally important is Quentin Grant’s continually present, yet unobtrusive music, with the composer at the piano. It underscores all that is happening, in a way that is almost subliminal. The huge auditorium, though, is not the most appropriate venue for this work and somewhere a little more intimate, with better acoustics, would have suited it better.

Drummond’s acute directorial eye, and a cast of marvellous performers, lift the words from the page and create a powerful piece of top quality theatre, filled with emotion, and moving some of the audience to tears. Brink has a reputation for quality work and this collaboration with English Touring Theatre has proved extremely productive resulting in work that is not to be missed.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

Adelaide Festival page

Venue: Norwood Concert Hall, The Parade, Norwood
Season: to 16th March 2013
Duration: 8Advertised 90mins but ran 2hrs 10mins, no interval
Tickets: $25 to $39
Bookings: BASS 131 246 or here


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