Left - Benjamin Gellie and Tricia Youlden. Cover - Marc Kay, Fi Young, Ali Aitken, Steven McGrath and Victoria India Cotman.
Horizons and Decline & Hall are presented as a double bill from New Zealand born playwright Roger Gimblett. Suffice to say they are two very different pieces of writing, distinct in their own way, each with its own idiosyncrasies. This being the case, it’s fitting that they be reviewed as such.
Horizons was very familiar in its concept and ideas, but this didn’t hamper its effect or style. Put simply it was the story of a frazzled and emotionally ‘closed for business’ middle aged woman trying as she might to relax on typically golden beach in Noosa, when she is approached by a younger surfer who engages her in conversation. It nicely establishes the yawning gulf of opposites between the pair, their age (and the inherent Baby Boomer Vs Generation Y conflict!), gender, social status and their approach to life. What ensues is a dialogue, during which they engage each other on a number of levels and across a number of topics. In the wrong hands this social commentary of ‘what might be if we were to reach out to those around us’ could very quickly become a trite and didactic theatrical hostage situation. However, the lightness of touch that Gimblett employs is just sufficient to deliver this play gently and humorously.
The performances from Tricia Youlden (Liz) and Benjamin Gellie (Chris) were good. They played well drawn characters with the appropriate amount of pathos required to keep this play at the high standard it was. With the exception of few lines tripped over, which one expects on an opening night, they were warm and engaging.
In short it was a beautifully performed and constructed chance meeting, were both characters are richer for the experience.
Decline and Hall was a far cry from the gentle nature of Horizons, not just in its conceit but its tone. It openly satirised the community committee group with great flair and timing. What we saw were typically single dimension characters; the neurotic secretary (Ali Aitken), the proper Priest (Steven McGrath), the slovenly lecherous builder (Marc Kay), the masculine female Cub Leader (Fiona Young), the Eastern block Yoga instructor with a funny accent (Victoria India Cotman), and the fit and attractive, albeit unenlightened young guy (Benjamin Gellie). It was pure farce, and it worked. As with Horizons it was Gimblett’s lightness of touch and ability to wield subtlety as a writer that made this play work so nicely. It was the theatrical embodiment of the great phase ‘A camel is a horse designed by a committee’.
Performances from all were spot on, everyone achieved a state of ‘heightened but convincing’ with all their characters - a feat not easy to do. In a form such as farce you’re asking for broad strokes, scarcely Hamlet! But everyone in this cast achieved it effortlessly, particularly Marc Kay’s brash and overbearing builder, Hugh - representing (as only Hugh could; the poetry society.)
Having sung its praises as a good farce, it did actually make a point about big business invading small communities; when this ham fisted group of community archetypes are offered financial assistance in the form of a big bid from big business gym “Galaxy Fitness” they turn it down in place of their principles as a community.
The direction here by Richard Cotter is to be commended. It’s a script that required rhythm and pace and Cotter gave it just this dynamic through his employment of levels and movement. It would be tempting in a play set around a table to keep the actors sitting for the whole piece - but Cotter maintained a sense of organic movement throughout the piece; a character never moved without it being necessary for them to do so. It was a well executed piece of character driven farce.
In all the plays illustrate a balance in Gimblett’s writing insomuch as he can write good drama and comedy and has a strong ability to write characters. Much praise is to be paid to the cast, crew and director who helped the writing to realise its full potential.
Roger Gimblett Productions presents
Horizons/Decline & Hall
Two one-act plays by Roger Gimblett
Directed by Richard Cotter
Venue: Tap Gallery | 1/278 Palmer St, Darlinghurst
Dates/Times: 6-10 Oct at 7pm; 10 & 11 Oct at 3pm
Tickets: Two plays $25
Bookings: MCA 1300 306 776 www.mca-tix.com | www.agendi.com/rgp/