Left - Kate Box & Darren Weller. Cover - Kate Box. Photos - Brett Boardman Photography
Tender is the latest mainstage production at Sydney's Stables Theatre. Written by Nicki Bloom, the story explores exultant love, familial trust, and the ways in which growing suspicion can tear people apart.
Having seen this play when it first performed in Belvoir's downstairs theatre during its brief window of time onstage last year, it's wonderful to see this work picked up and given new life in a mainstage season in 2008.
Tender centres around Sarah, played by the wonderful Kate Box. In her late twenties, quietly playful, and blissfully married to Michael, played by Darren Weller, Sarah is troubled by her failing memory. She struggles to recall where she was several hours, let alone days ago. Michael's parents Patrick and Yvonne, played by Pip Miller and Heather Mitchell seem weighed down by a terrible burden, and we see the play slowly piece together what may have happened and what has been lost.
This is a truly impressive work. A simple story, but finely crafted by Bloom and beautifully executed in this production under the direction of Geordie Brookman, Tender offers four well-developed, very human characters played by a tight acting ensemble.
The play outlines a series of events that could happen in any Australian city, but neatly sidesteps the dull kitchen-sink comedy/drama (Bob and Jane flirt, drink coffee and muse about biological clocks and career prospects for thirty-somethings before sending the audience off to sleep). Instead, an ethereal, dreamlike quality comes through in the production, and there is a strong sense that the world we see is made up of memory, dream, and dark imagination.
The storytelling process is never obvious, or lazy. Stylised, lyrical language combines with Matt Cox's lighting and Pip Runciman's set and costume design to build a moody, melancholy atmosphere that manages to fall somewhere in between naturalistic and dream-state. There is also a remarkably feminine quality to Bloom's writing - poetic, sorrowful, with a restrained beauty.
Tender is a strong production that combines the efforts of a talented team of artists, but what really stands out in this work is the writing. The unique voice of Nicki Bloom is an exciting addition to Sydney's stages, and Bloom's future works will be well looking out for.
Griffin Theatre Company and nowyesnow by arrangement with Insite Arts present
by Nicki Bloom
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross NSW 2011
Dates: 14 November – 20 December
Times: Monday at 6:30pm. Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm. Saturday Matinee at 2pm
Prices: Full $43. Snr $36. Preview/Matinee/Conc. $32. Group 8+ $35. Under 30 $25 (Tues – Thurs only).
Pay-What-You-Can Mondays* minimum $10.
Bookings: MCA TIX 1300 306 776 or online at www.griffintheatre.com.au