Tommy Murphy is quickly become one of my favourite playwrights. Earlier in the year I caught a performance of his play ‘Strangers In Between’ and found myself awestruck by his rounded characters, playful narrative and the balance he strikes between light-hearted humour and depth of content. Needless to say when I saw that the world premier of his newest production was ripe to debut I merrily made my way down to Wharf 2 to feast on the latest Murphy/Berthold offering.
The planet Saturn takes approximately twenty nine and a half years to orbit the sun and astrologers associate the planet with the principles of limitation, practicality and reality. Saturn’s return is a conceptual phase, a threshold through which we all must pass, between our twenty ninth and thirtieth years where Saturn returns to the point in space where it witnessed our births and is said to bring upheaval; a change into the next phase of our lives. It is within this liminal field that the play is set and Zara (Leeanna Walsman), our feisty protagonist, reassesses her existence.
Zara and Matt (Matt Zeremes) like to fuck. So much so that they dabble in drugs, roleplay, strangers and exotic locations to keep it exciting. But a poignant and unrecipricated ‘I love you’ proves to be the keystone to a mosaic of delusion through which Zara eventually pieces herself back together.
The play slides from naturalism into surrealism so gently that you hardly notice, which is really a complement to the entire cast and crew. Murphy’s script provides the seed from which the production grows, David Berthold’s direction the water that nurtures Walsman’s, Zeremes’ and Socratis Otto’s performances. The design team’s (Adam Gardnir – Design, Luiz Pampolha – Lighting and Basil Hogios – Composer/Sound) simple approach prunes the production back to a fine piece of topiary resembling a sea serpent from where the wild things are. By simple approach I don’t mean to say that the design team was childish nor cheap. Rather that it’s always refreshing to see a production where the priority is performance and everything else is there to complement the performance. A perfect example of this is the soundtrack; the plays themes are essentially timeless, but by garnishing the play with contemporary and somewhat alternative tracks the plays setting was obvious without the need for visual aids.
Walsman, Zeremes and Otto all perform solidly throughout the piece. Each of them shift between their various roles within the play taking the audience from location to location as the script demands. The nuances of each character are fleshed out which can only be contributed to a strong collaboration between the actors, director and writer.
With each play Murphy’s style is evolving, it’s great to see a writer who’s brave enough to pave their own road. Even more impressive are the casts, crews, companies and culture that support originality, creativity and risk taking. It’s these types of collaborations that make the magic happen... if only the Australian film industry would take note.
Wharf 2LOUD presents
by Tommy Murphy
Venue: Wharf 2, Sydney Theatre Company | Pier 4, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Season: 19 August – 30 August
Plays: Evenings 8.15pm Except Mon 25 Aug At 7pm.
Matinees Sat 23 And Sat 30 August At 2.15pm. No Shows Sundays
Tickets: $35 / Concession $22 / Under 30s or Student $20
Bookings: (02) 9250 1777 or sydneytheatre.com.au