Saskia Smith who plays opposite Tom O’Sullivan in Dying City, by American playwright, Christopher Shinn, which had its Australian debut at the Darlo last night certainly can boast a finely honed set of pins from the gluteus maximus right the way down to her Achilles tendon. Director, Steven Colyer, as he demonstrated in Boston Marriage earlier this year, uses his lighting technician, Gavan Swift, to make the most of that fine orchestration of rippling tissue that makes flesh so intensely alluring.
While the theme of Marriage may have been somewhat obscured in its kaleidoscope of imagery there is no ambiguity in City. Colyer ensures that Smith, as Kelly, nails it in the first sixty seconds of the play and it never wavers.
This play is not about politics and religion as such any more than the war in Iraq is as discovered by Craig, one of the twin brothers played with great deftness by O’Sullivan. It’s about sex used as a weapon whether active offensive or passive. It makes for great theatre because we still find it hard to face the issues that come with what must be the most complex emotional trigger in our battery of hormones. Especially when we disconnect it from its general accompaniment of a vaguely self conscious humour.
O’Sullivan’s other character, Peter, makes the point soon after he arrives ‘Two people alone in an apartment is sort of sexy’. Certainly it is in theatre, even if one of them is ostensibly gay. We want to know how this is going to end up.
But it’s not going to be a comedy romp this time because we learn that O’Sullivan’s other half, who also happens to have been Smith’s other half, is dead and by all accounts is not a straight forward engagement casualty.
There is some very clever video takes courtesy of Kat Barron and Lara Thoms that assist in defining the violence and its destructiveness. The set designer, Imogen Ross, presents us with a surreal image that is a constant reminder that whether emotional or physical the results of violence are still the same.
The accompanying audio by Jeremy Brennan makes an equal contribution to the overall state of tension that is found in this production.
O’Sullivan manages to capture the unique characteristics of each of the twins under an overarching similarity by delineating them through expressions of hands, eyes and through general body posture. He traverses a wide swathe of emotional responses however Smith has an equally demanding role. She is required to sustain an almost detached control until she loses it. Perhaps her peaks appeared at times gratuitous but, considering the pair had only been in the space for three days it isn’t surprising. They must have still been finding their way round the space.
Shinn’s language is obviously the driving force of the play. The imagery he evokes of sexual exploitation constantly shifts between the emotional and the physical. He has cleverly set the twins their own respective reawakening each being forced to break with the lie that has become life while in the background life as a lie continues on a much larger canvas.
For Kelly, objectified and idolized, it all ends up the same, a betrayal. It’s a powerful piece of theatre which remains unresolved but as the formidable detritus on the set reminds us its going to take a lot more than a glimpse into the psych of even these tortured souls to move this rubble.
And then there is always George W., a ubiquitous presence throughout courtesy of Barron and Thoms. It’s so obviously a play about fire power in so many guises in the final analysis it is about politics and religion after all and Kelly’s comment that they run very deep is not as gratuitous as first appears.
Perhaps that’s why George W. can still cut a gag amid the horror of it all. He’s actually having the time of his life, it must beat the hell out of hitting a white ball up hill and down dale.
If so the last laugh when it does come isn’t going to be on George W., it’s going to be on us, God help us.
Darlinghurst Theatre Company and Gaiety Theatre present
By Christopher Shinn
Darlinghurst Theatre | 19 Greenknowe Ave Potts Point
Thursday 28 June to Saturday 21 July 2007
Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 5pm
$30 Full, $25 Concession and $20 Subscribers
02 8356 9987