Left – Joanne Redfearn and Matthew Connell. Photo – tony rive (triggerpoint photography)
Brunswick Arts Space is about as Brunswicky as an arts space can get: a converted industrial building off an alley dominated by the sounds and smells of a Turkish restaurant kitchen. Inside though, it has been transformed into an abstract representation of a British seaside holiday resort, the setting for Scarborough.
The stage is a floor of sand, on which have been laid out the trappings of a slightly fusty hotel room. The audience sit, feet on the sand, in a single row around the edges of the “room”. It is both intimate and immediately off kilter. Appropriately, for from the moment Lauren (Joanne Redfearn) and Daz (Matthew Connell) come on stage you know that their relationship is both passionate and anything but normal.
Lauren is Daz’s teacher and they’re having a dirty weekend of sex by the seaside to celebrate his 16th birthday. You didn’t come in off that alleyway expecting some drawing room drama or comedy of manners though, did you? Let’s hope not.
Scarborough, by British playwright Fiona Evans, only continues to get twistier the further you go in. Not only do you get to see inside the taboo affair and the emotional turbulence surrounding it but after one act with Lauren and Daz, a new couple, teacher Aiden (Doug Lyons) and student Beth (Libby Brockman) come on and play out the same scenario virtually verbatim, only with the gender roles reversed.
With an all-round fresh-faced cast, the age gap between the lovers doesn’t seem as marked as it might, but the actors do a good job of highlighting the generational differences in body language and attitude. Whichever couple is on, there is a prevailing sense of unease, and the odd staging and frequent semi-nudity certainly contribute to this. However, what could easily be as bleak as, well, the British seaside, is made highly watchable by charismatic performances and a script full of humour and relatable moments.
Daz / Beth is brash and funny, a not entirely powerless figure in the relationship, naïvely headstrong in a very teenage way. Lauren / Aiden is both controlling and weak, guilt-wracked but needy, a conflicted figure for whom the affair is part of an ongoing story of personal turmoil. Scarborough humanises its protagonists without romanticising their situation, showing sympathy without shying from the grim realities underpinning their affair.
The original production of the play made waves at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, at which it was a simple two-hander featuring the female teacher and male pupil. Evans added the gender-flipped second act for a repeat season the following year. While it would (and evidently did) play strongly in its original form, this addition makes it a more complex and challenging work, creating a structure of loops within loops, each half feeding into the other.
The script loses none of its power in repetition, if anything it grows in intrigue. One odd feature is that many gender-specific references have been left in, now rendered incongruous. The resulting anomalies range from the slightly gender atypical to the outright ridiculous, with many in between which jar at first but then make you question why they should. This may disconcert some audience, although by the second act you should be pretty disconcerted by the subject matter already and it does make for the kind of play you can really sink your brain into.
Scarborough is to date the second stage offering from The Honeytrap and it shows the fledgeling company’s commitment to delivering challenging theatre. Well acted and directed with conviction, it’s exactly the kind of edgy art you’d hope to run into in a dark Brunswick alley.
The Honeytrap present
by Fiona Evans
Directed by Loren de Jong and Celeste Markwell
Venue: Brunswick Arts Space | 2a Little Breese St, Brunswick
Dates: 2 – 18 May, 2013
Tickets: $27 – $19
Bookings: www.thehoneytrap.net.au | at the door