Night Journeys is a new Greek Australian play by Bill Kokkaris about place, past, memory and the attempts to reconcile all three. Set in a bungalow in Marrickville the play unfolds as it struggles to answer the question “what is the value of a house?” is it the market value? The stainless steel appliances? The location? Or the history it holds?
Tessa (Natalie Alexopoulos), an empowered real estate visionary is keen to sell a house which holds her past and painful memories, while her husband, Richard (Benni Silvester) is keen to settle in and renovate to make their house suitable for their future together. Before long Richard’s troubled younger brother Joey (Mathew Halliday) arrives home escorted by the police and Tessa’s grandmother Georgina (Barbara Gouskos) visits the garden at night and checks in on the house.
Mathew Halliday is consistent and committed in his portrayal as Joey, the troublesome younger brother. Barbara Gouskos is multidimensional and a pleasure to watch as the difficult yet fragile grandmother Georgina, easily accessing the vocal depth and colour of a woman much more advanced than her years. Within the second half the Grandmother/Granddaughter scene holds within it the very essence of the play: how the past shapes us and we can be trapped by our perspective at the time: truly a poignant and difficult confrontation. Natalie Alexopoulos is bright and effortless as Tessa though her character portrayal has her sometimes relying on playing type and not the full range of Tessa’s objectives and needs in the scenes, which may be more of a question of script than performance. Benni Silvester also delivers an adequate performance as Richard.
Khristina Totos’s direction is simple and effective and services the unfolding of the play, the characters and the “reality” in with this piece exists. The set is masterfully designed by Megan Venhoek which involves a light scrim which folds and unfolds like a rubix puzzle to add rooms, and change the space within simple motions and this is well utilized by the cast. An impressive addition to the set is the compliment of AV projections and sound design by Steve Toulmin which layers beautifully over the live action in parts, though I do question why the tape recorder needs to be operated from the sound operator? Nicholas Higgin’s lighting design is gentle and adequate and is at times powerfully pronounced and startling.
The main question to this production lies in the script. Many of the scenes are written as duets and are laced with positioned exposition, which at time overstates the history of the relationship, when we can clearly see the dynamic unfolding in the natural interactions. Unfortunately at times, for example during any arguments the exchanges between the characters seem to be highly structured and less impassioned than one would hope. Some of the dialogue is overly simplistic and I believe that the code switching between English and Greek could be used to greater effect to develop the disparity between New Australian and second generation Australian. Language can be a powerful thing: a thing to bind and divide. As a mono lingual audience member I find it interesting and fascinating to hear how and when language changes from English to Greek and Vice versa. Some times tension is lost through lack of pace and over stated exposition, but the strength of the piece comes from its bilingual nature which rescues this play from monotony.
Sidetrack Theatre is an important and interesting theatre space amid the Addison Road community centre and an appropriate venue for Take Away Theatre’s production of Night Journeys. It has a family feel and is unpretentiously accessible, not unlike the script itself. This is a space that caters for, with and about the community that surrounds it, and Night Journeys is an important contribution to this community.
It is admirable that Take Away Theatre is committed to new world, which reflects the Greek-Australian community, as it is a vital part of the Sydney theatre landscape. It would be interesting to see a more fully fleshed out representation of the Anglo-Australian characters: especially how they react/feel when confronted by a history and culture which is foreign to their own. Curiosity? Anger? Acceptance? Celebration? Ignorance? And also interesting to examine the experience of the Greek Australians, their connection to history, culture and their displacement within the country which is both their home, yet not “home.” It is also questionable how the issue of mental health is dealt with in this play, and again the difficult confrontation of this, is simplified and deflected in a glib way. I am left somewhat wondering who’s story is this? Do I believe the changes in these characters? What is to become of these characters now they have been freed from deep-seated assumptions and resentments?
Regardless of these questions, there is no doubt that Take Away Theatre through the firm and eloquent direction of Khristina Totos, has strongly produced a play which, although needs further development, is an important piece of theatre which is relevant and accessible for the Greek Australian Community and beyond.
Take Away Theatre presents
By Bill Kokkaris
Venue: Sidetrack Theatre | 142 Addison Rd Marrickville
Dates: November 10 to December 9, Wed-Sat 8pm & Sun 5pm
Tickets: $30/$25 conc & groups. Wed all tickets $15
Bookings: 9990 4980 or on-line at www.takeawaytheatre.com.au