Impressive and powerful as always
By Margaret Wieringa
Three squares of light, perhaps windows, gradually appear on the scrim that divides the stage. As the audience quieten for the start of the show, slowly the lights come up on a couple, the woman sleeping on the man’s shoulder. There is a weight to the tableaux which is held and held, and then fades to black.
And then out bursts Helen an Englishwoman who now lives in Australia, accidentally. Rosie Lockhart plays Helen with charm and a fast smile that immediately has the audience in the palm of her hand. She relates her stories filled with such ridiculous behaviours (such as her choice of travel companions when heading inland to visit Uluru), yet there is something beneath it, something sinister or painful. And it comes out in a strange mix of sadness and anger, somewhat misdirected.
After Helen leaves the stage, Alex wanders on, an Irishman photographer who relates stories of taking his wife and daughter to visit her father in France. Like Helen, he is charming and bright, a man who people like, and who likes people. But he too has a darkness, and as he spoke, and I realised where it was going, I was hoping, almost praying, that it would turn out he was taking us for a ride. But no. Ben Prendergast broke my heart with his smiles through the tears, with his ability despite it all to give some sense of hope. Of hope not for now, but for one day.
Sea Wall was written by Olivier award-winning Simon Stephens (whose Birdland recently closed at MTC). Dead Centre was written in response to this by local Green Room and AWGIE winner Tom Holloway. In Sea Wall, Stephens has created a monologue that grabs the audience and draws them in to Alex’s story, so they cannot help but feel his grief as he attempts to get through it. Holloway captures these juxtaposing emotions beautifully, and manages to give Helen her own story without stepping on the toes of Alex. And the gentle vignettes behind the scrim bring it all together for a strong but emotionally challenging evening of theatre directed by Julian Meyrick, from the ever-impressive company Red Stitch.
Where: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel St, St Kilda East
When: July 14-August 15, Wed – Sat 8pm and 3pm Matinee on Saturdays and 6:30 Sundays
Tickets: $20 – $37
Booking: By phone Tues-Fri 11-2pm 9533 8083 or visit www.redstitch.net