Like a Fishbone | Griffin Theatre Company & Sydney Theatre Company

Like a Fishbone | Griffin Theatre Company & Sydney Theatre CompanyLeft - Marta Dusseldorp and Anita Hegh. Cover - Aimee Horne & Marta Dusseldorp. Photos - Brett Boardman

White drops of rain trickle in luminescent light down the wall of an office. On a table in the room is a white model of a town. There is the sound of the rain in the streets outside.

In an architect’s office a blind mother waits. She has travelled by bus to talk to the architect. She has travelled by bus because of trackworks. Trackworks because of the flooding. It is raining. She is wet. She waits. Confronted by a voice of a woman, the mother asks to see the architect. It is soon explained. The woman is the architect. “You can be both.”

The architect is responsible for designing a memorial after a community was devastated by a tragic shooting at their local school. The mother feels responsible for passing on the wishes from her daughter: that the memorial is not what they want.

Both women equal in many ways: fierce, intelligent, passionate and yet completely different in world view… completely opposing in philosophy and in their purpose. One places her unerring faith in God. The other, places her unerring faith in herself.

Themes flip between the role of God, the role of architecture (and art), the role of a mother, who has the right to represent a community, the effectiveness of group consultation, what is it to leave a legacy? Like a Fishbone is a series of arguments about authority and righteousness, which ultimately examines a deeper philosophical dilemma - a person’s life purpose.

It is a handsome production - set design by Jacob Nash is suitably cold and efficient, complimented beautifully by costumes designed by Bruce McNiven. And Verity Hampson’s lighting design is subtle and effective - shifting us elegantly from the poetic to the stark throughout the course of the narrative.

An outstanding performance from Anita Hegh, as the mother gives the piece a warmth and tenderness, which could otherwise be reduced to an intellectual wrestle of righteous ideology. Hegh’s ferocity and fragility is heartbreaking – feels spontaneous and honest. It is a difficult balance to strike as the character of the mother some may find it slightly difficult to empathize with, as her ideology seems old fashioned, naive and unglamorous.

Aimee Horne’s Intern is likeable and balances the scenes with a genuine humour and an authentic spontaneity - and after a barrage of violent ideological exchanges it is the Intern’s speech which grounds us in the simplicity of what is: form follows function. Unfortunately the character of the architect (Marta Dusseldorp) is not only unlikeable, but her transition from hardnosed career woman to compassionate woman/nurturing mother is utterly unbelievable.

Like that of a soft fleshed fish, the translucent, invisible bones of the play are hidden. And before you can fully comprehend what is happening, that which was intended to be a source of nourishment, is now the cause of your demise. Anthony Weigh’s play itself, is largely about the structures – the philosophical structures - which shape us and our world, that frame our perspective. Tim Maddock’s deftly handles a very intense argument with great skill and finesse.

Like a Fishbone is a wrestle which is personal, and unresolvable and the sport can be best be found not in the end of the play - but in the discussions in the foyer after the show.

Sydney Theatre Company and Griffin Theatre Company present
Like a Fishbone
by Anthony Weigh

Director Tim Maddock

Venue: Wharf 1, Sydney Theatre Company, Pier 4, Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay
Dates: 16 July - 7 August 2010
Tickets: $15 - $45 (transaction fees may apply)
Bookings: 02 9250 1777

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