Opening night of State Theatre Company of SA and Sydney Theatre Company’s co-production, Vere (Faith), saw its author, John Doyle (aka Roy Slaven of Roy and HG fame) called up onto the Dunstan Playhouse stage to tumultuous applause at the end of the performance – and rightly so: it is a cracker of a play – well written, witty, insightful, intelligent, gut achingly funny and heart wrenchingly poignant with an ending that stays in one’s mind long after leaving the theatre.
Vere means faith, hence the rather unusual title; and there is faith aplenty in this story of a brilliant physics lecturer struck down by a debilitative disease leading to rapid onset dementia and a form of Parkinson’s. Although this all sounds rather heavy and dramatic, Doyle (writer of Marking Time and Changi) manages to expertly balance humour and drama to achieve entertainment and understanding around an illness that is, sadly, such a big part of our lives in today’s society. He also uses a clever device of having six of the seven required actors play two diametrically opposed characters each. For example, a womanising, alcoholic but intelligent Vice Chancellor in the first act becomes a pious, straight laced, rather unknowing man of the cloth in the second.
Ksenja Logos (Marissa/Melissa), Yalin Ozucelik (Simon/Scott), Geoff Morrell (Ralph/Roger), Rebecca Massey (Kate/Katherine), Matilda Bailey (Gina/Giana/Holly) and Matthew Gregan (Mike/Michael) all handle their character changes with ease and with a naturalness that almost makes one forget that it’s the same actor playing different roles. Morrell, in particular, almost steals both acts with his expert comic timing and extremely dry deliveries as the Vice Chancellor/minister. Young Adelaide actor Gregan especially impresses in Act One with his nerdy, socially inept, stuttering Uni student.
As physics lecturer Vere (pronounced as in where), Paul Blackwell is magnificent. His is a performance that is intelligent, believable, humorous, wonderfully moving and very memorable. He gains the audience’s attention from the onset and never loses it, making one understand his feelings at any given moment without even having to utter a word. This is a true masterclass in acting and one well worth witnessing.
Sarah Goodes directs the production with full understanding and mastery of all aspects of theatre styles: comedy (high and low), farce, drama and pathos are all demonstrated by her with flair.
The ending, combining Pip Runciman’s set design, Nigel Levings lighting design, Goodes direction and Blackwell’s acting skills, is the stuff that wonderful theatre is made of.
As Adelaidians, we often complain that we don’t get the theatre that Sydney siders are privy to. Vere is a world premiere, and we’re getting it first!
Make the effort to see this brilliant production: it is truly a must-see!
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 12 October – 2 November 2013
Duration: 2 hours 30 mins including interval
Tickets: $29.00 – $55.00
Bookings: Book at BASS
Photo Source: State Theatre Company SA website