Presented by the State Theatre Company
Reviewed 24 October 2017
Switzerland is an impressive balance between the contrasting genres of comedy and drama as the audience witnesses a humorously combative relationship bloom between strangers, foregrounded by a questionable sanity and a looming, ominous death.
Patricia Highsmith is not only a world-famous, award-winning crime writer (Strangers on a Train), but also an avid recluse with little to no interest in the changing world outside her basic, little cabin in the Swiss mountains. She is a stereotypical old woman who spares no breath in complaining about society’s changes from her day, is adamant in her raging racism, and refers to young adults as “silly little f*****s”. She also holds bizarre interests, such as watching snails copulate and a dangerous obsession with historic knives and guns.
One day, Patricia’s world of tranquillity and silence is frustratingly broken by the arrival of Edward Ridgeway, a young agent from Patricia’s publishing house back in New York. Edward is on a mission to convince the glorified author to write one last book in her famous series that focuses on her popular character, the enigmatic and determined killer, Tom Ripley (The Talented Mr Ripley).
As the totally unimpressed Patricia attempts to drive the annoying publisher from her home with a torrent of witty yet horrific verbal abuse, the audience bears witness to both characters slowly learning about each other and what has led them both to be in the situation they are in now. Patricia’s snarky remarks about Edward’s presumed sexuality, intelligence (or lack thereof), and childhood as an orphan (yep, she brutally goes there) are met with Edward’s eventual snappy comebacks as the two give each other the most humorous and brutal tongue-lashings ever seen on stage.
As the two continue their epic verbal showdown, it becomes clear that Patricia isn’t actually against writing another book, but is stuck in what exactly to write. The pair strike a deal; Patricia will sign the publishing contract binding her to produce one last novel, but only if the young publicist will help her write Ripley’s final murder. As the old novelist and young publisher brainstorm and a plot slowly starts to develop, Patricia begins to write her final story, but, is she also writing her own death?
Veteran stage and screen legend, Sandy Gore, returns to the stage with full force as the feisty, witty and somewhat terrifying famed novelist as she tackles her writer’s block to finish one final novel. From the moment Gore determinedly strides out onto stage she not only commands but demands 110% of the audience’s attention. For almost the entire 90 minutes (with no break) Gore not only scares with her brutal wit (combined with a very large potty-mouth) but also continually has the audience in stitches with insults the likes of which you’ve never heard.
Actor, Matt Crook, appears genuinely afraid of Gore and her tougher-than-nails exterior (as I think any of us truly would) as he attempts to convince a woman completely set in her ways to listen to what he says. Crook also masterfully handles a complete 180 when the situation starts to go downhill and the truth of his trip begins to seep through.
The brilliance of this show is all within the extensive script brought to life by both actors. Gore is entirely believable as a highly intelligent but also highly pessimistic old novelist battling a strong case of writer’s block, while Crook combats Patricia’s cynical take on literally everything with a youthful eagerness and hope that only a “silly little f****r” could have.
A constantly un-ravelling tale that will leave the audience questioning Patricia’s reality, Switzerland is a fantastic production from Australian playwright, Joanna Murray-Smith, that will have you laughing one minute, then send shivers down your spine the next.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse,
Season: 27 October – 1 November
Duration: 90 mins
Tickets: $33 – $61