Left - Thomas Conroy and Diana Glenn. Photo - Heidrun Lohr
Growing organically from its warm minimal set in the cozy downstairs theatre at Belvoir, The Sweetest Thing is a sad and funny story about the intersection between love and family. Playwright Verity Laughton weaves a complex tale that focuses on the emotional journey of its characters very strongly thanks to being relieved of the burden of chronology. Despite a dynamic plot arc and potentially confusing time changes, the story of Sarah, played by the wonderful Diana Glenn shines through with excellent clarity.
The story opens in New Zealand where Sarah's mother and sister have come to visit her and meet her lover, Jimmy (Christopher Morris), who is also an Australian expatriate. The play then weaves backwards and forwards through family deaths, births and tragedies, and paints a vivid image not only of Sarah's life, but also that of her family.
What this story may lack in terms of climax and crescendo it certainly makes up for in well-textured and captivating characterisation. This characterisation might be primarily attributed to Laughton's engaging and well-crafted dialogue, but the difficult job of bringing it to life has been undertaken with impeccable dexterity by an accomplished cast. Caroline Craig almost outshines them all as Sarah's vibrant sister, but the remaining cast cannot really be overshadowed. As Sarah's mum, Vanessa Downing presents a hardened but sometimes fragile picture of womanhood, and she is matched brilliantly by Christopher Morris in the role of Sarah's rough and ready lover. And while the remaining roles of Sarah's other sister, Bella, and her son, Josh, may not sit at the front of the audience's consciousness, their performances by Lucy Wigmore and Thomas Conroy are no less noteworthy than the rest of the cast; nor are these characters any less developed.
Indeed, it is the quality of the characterisation that makes this play worth seeing. Both Laughton's development of these characters in the script and the cast's portrayal of them are infinitely engaging, and I think it belies an excellent collaborative ethos in the creative team.
The one thing I don't quite understand is the title. Appropriate as it may be, such a common cliche is likely to invoke all manner of unrelated notions, and it just doesn't sit right with me. Still, if a niggle about the title is the worst thing that can be said about this play, that's a great achievement.
The Sweetest Thing is a compelling piece of work, made all the more noteworthy by its thoroughly committed cast. It explores themes of love and loss, and presents a most rewarding theatre experience.
Arts Radar in association with B Sharp present
THE SWEETEST THING
by Verity Laughton
Directed by Sarah Goodes
Venue: Belvoir St Downstairs Theatre
Dates: 28 October – 21 November 2010
Times: Tues 7pm, Wed-Sat 8.15pm, Sun 5.15pm
Tickets: $32/$24 (Preview $20, Cheap Tues Pay-what-you-can, min. $12)
Bookings: 9699 3444 | www.belvoir.com.au