Saturn's Return | Sydney Theatre Company

Saturn's Return | Sydney Theatre Company
Left - Leeanna Walsman and Matt Zeremes. Cover - Toby Moore and Leeanna Walsman. Photos - Tracey Schramm

Crisis? What crisis? Now that I come to think about it, I think I might well have had one, 'round about the 30 mark. But that was quite some time ago. It's a much vaunted astrological concept and it's called Saturn's Return. The concept is Saturn, on completion of its orbit, insinuates itself into the very same place in the universe it occupied when you were born. Yes, you. And, far from engendering some affinity or equilibrium, it sets you back on your heels and ensures your world tends toward entropy, just as it should.

It happens to Matt & Zara, who start to question everything, especially as regards their relationships. They're heading down the yuppie superhighway: contemplating a mortgage, parenthood; fastidious about letting red wine breathe. They toy, constantly, with extramarital sugar and three-way spice. It's Tommy Murphy's reworked play, first released a year or so ago, his first for STC. It fell over then. Higher hopes are held for it, this time 'round. Certainly, under the baton of director David Berthold (assisted by Mark Grentell) and a remarkable cast, it's unlikely to have a better chance. With STC's flash cash, designer, Adam Gardnir, has gone to town, with an exquisite, revolving set; a genuine enhancement to the action. The inescapable Luiz Pampohla, on lights, has done his characterically seamless best and composer Basil Hogios has nailed the sound design.

NIDA grad Murphy got off on the right foot with STC when, as a mere teen, he pulled the company's Young Playwright's Award. He seems to have gone from strength-to-strength (picking-up a swag of other gongs along the way): this is a bold, adventurous and highly amusing play, imbued, in deft degree, with tension and poignancy.

Toby Moore takes the place of Socratis Otto, as Matt. Moore's cv is modest, yet impressive indeed, and his performance here ought to very much consolidate his appeal to producers and directors, not to mention colleagues and audiences. As a young man, still caught-up in apron strings, but battling to be his own person, as well as his partner's, he turns in a beautifully measured performance: good-humoured; a little uncomfortable in his own skin; adaptable; easygoing; anxious; anchored to the past; fearful of the future.

Matt Zeremes, as Brendan, an old school chum of Zara's excels in struggling to keep his sexual curiosity in his pants and, in trying to sustain a convo with Matt, does stoic, matey discomfort authentically and, thus, hilariously.

The star, on and off the page, however, is Leeanna Walsman, as Zara, and generous Dutch hooker, Mary. The latter is a delicious bonus: the accent and demeanour are spot-on. Even beyond the very considerable talents of her co-stars, Walsman's roles are physically and vocally nuanced, down to the merest look askance; though there was a slight tendency, early on, to, shall we say, muted diction. But this was a fleeting quibble, since, in portraying and fleshing-out a woman torn apart by internal contradictions, expectations and blistering sexual frustration, she is extraordinary.

Murphy's comfort with rampant humour, even, or especially, in the same arena as tragedy, is as noteworthy as his colourfully inventive, even festive, creativity with language: he has a facility with a kind of pleasingly poetic gibberish, as the play lapses into absurdist, angular, Daliesque disintegration, in sympathy with the plays characters. It suddenly lurches and tilts: everything that was teetering, threatening to fall, comes cacophonously tumbling down, like Humpty Dumpty. It can't be put together again. Moreover, Murphy's cryptic, metaphoric thread, involving spacecraft and aliens, keeps his audience (well, me, anyway) guessing and on its toes, as it works at relating the lives of the characters to their own. It's crafty, in the way it amuses, while making indelible points. Some might find it heavyhanded, or a little too much effort, but it will reward those not averse to mental and emotional exercise.

Sydney Theatre Company presents
Saturn’s Return
by Tommy Murphy

Director David Berthold

Venue: Wharf 1, Sydney Theatre Company, Pier 4, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Dates: 24 July to 30 August 2009. Opening Night 29 July at 8pm
Tickets: $30 to $75
Bookings: 9250 1777 or www.sydneytheatre.com.au

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