Left – Brendan Hanson and Georgina Gayler. Cover – Brendan Hanson and Georgina Gayler. Photos – Gary Marsh Photography
When you are a theatre company whose income largely leans on subscription bookings it is a wise decision to mix it up a bit with the yearly programming. Black Swan has demonstrated this admirably in scheduling Midsummer (a play with songs) as its last 2013 offering and end of year pre-Christmas treat.
This is a sparkly, dialogue-driven, alternative rom-com. It places the protagonists, a wildly different man and woman, together in the untidy lost weekend that never should have happened.
That the setting is in Scotland and that Georgina Gaylor and Brendan Hanson can manage to sustain their charming accents so well adds immeasurably to the fun of the show.
Helena is in a bar waiting for her married lover to arrive. Across the room Bob is nursing a pint waiting for a call from Big Tiny Tam Callaghan. Bob moves the odd stolen car for Callaghan, but has messed up before so he’s on a short string with one chance to redeem himself. The pressure’s on so they remove to her flat using booze and sex to wipe away the night.
As Bob leaves next morning and pauses for a piss his penis speaks to him. A wonderful sock puppet member delivers a moral lecture to Bob about his weariness and disaffection for the laddish life they have led together.
That morning finds Helena on the steps of the cathedral where she is supposed to be one of her sister’s bridesmaids. Vomit-stained and weak she endures a torturous interrogation from her brattish 12 year old nephew who goads her with his new camera and perfect auditory recall. This is a delightful pop up shadow performance from Hanson.
A clever minimalist set by Fiona Bruce allowed the two actors to appear in small box windows as multiple characters. Revolving walls moved together and apart to create multiple scenarios in an intimate setting despite the large stage space.
Bob appears once more. She follows him to breakfast. Prior to her arrival Bob’s psyche engages him in an amusing Q & A about his life. "Change is possible" is the message from the parking machine. Is it an omen? After spending 3 hours together agreeing on all aspects of life they are ready to pack it in. Everyone, and Helena in particular, knows there must be initial antagonism between the two romantic leads for there to be a happy ending.
Why not spend the 1500 quid in a fabulous wild weekend? Cue the verbal journey from the wine merchant and his most expensive stock, to the Goth kids, the guitar shop, to busking, as Helena hands out money to a crowd prepared to listen and on to a Japanese bondage club. Big Tiny Tam Callaghan appears and gives chase, but at the moment of truth drops dead. Crisis resolved!
If I had a qualm with the scripting it would be with the incident in Bob’s life triggered by Helena’s confession she is terrified she may be pregnant by her married lover. This leads to an imagined scenario where 18 year old Bob fathers a boy but exits and watches him develop from a distance. This culminates in a scene where he supposedly visits his son at a ball game and speaks to the boy of his own childhood. I found this a little mawkish in the context of the modern fairytale at work here.
As Bob prepares to catch the ferry and embark on life as busker, who should appear but Helena with the breathless news that she has booked accommodation at a decent hotel in Brugges. Returning to the witty device of the interior monologue Grieg asks us “What she really means is do you need a backing singer?” For life perhaps ?
This piece is extremely well sustained by the two actors over one and a half hours. The music comprised of simple oft-repeated tunes but evocative of the mood and the moment.
Black Swan State Theatre Company presents
Midsummer (A play with songs)
by David Greig & Gordon McIntyre
Director Damon Lockwood
Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA
Dates: until 24 November 2013
Tickets: $69.50 – $29.50
Bookings: 1300 795 012