It's always a pleasure to recognise the sort of people and places you know in a story. Realism stimulates. It is also a pleasure to see people and places that you know exaggerated to the level of the grotesque and exotic. That is why fantasy stimulates.
Julian Larnach's play, In Real Life, engages both modes, although the line between reality and fantasy, science fiction and science fact, is increasingly becoming indiscernible in the digital age.
Theresa Faber is the CEO of a global digital conglomerate and inventor of The Drum, the world's most popular device. She is the primate of what has become this planet of the apps. Ironically, this corporate ecclesiastic of global connection is estranged from her daughter, Eva, who has fled the city and ensconced herself in the family holiday house.
In Real Life opens with a very real life confrontation between mother and daughter, the ageless conflict of conforming and rebellion. Eva wants no part in the empire her mother has built, she just wants to connect more personally with her mother. Eva wants more from her mother than “Regurgitated Ted talk” that passes for conversation.
When the pair get into the deep and meaningfuls of life and death, the daughter asks the mother what she would do if she died. Theresa's brave new world response is “I would clone you.” In response to Eva's question “Why did you have me?”, Theresa coldly replies “I wanted an heir.” Eva's response is to disappear, vanish into thin air. Her absence becomes a lingering presence, and Theresa seeks solace in grief support, robotics, birth surrogacy, and cloning.
Julian Lanarch gives a new spin on themes classically explored in works like Frankenstein, Pygmalion, Brave New World and 1984 and holds his own in this good company.
Powerhouse performances propel Luke Rogers' production into a compulsively watchable experience. Annie Finsterer is imposing as the dragon mum, dominant, domineering and diabolical. Elizabeth Nabben begins the play as the self harming offspring desperate for human maternal connection then parlays into a panoply of portraits from corporate cannibal to domestic cleaner and a riveting turn as a robot.
In Real Life is played out on a strikingly spare set by Georgia Hopkins, clinically white and forensically clean, with fluorescent trim and herbaceous feature, augmented by Sian James-Holland's lighting and James Brown's sound and music.
In Real Life is live theatre as it should be – heart rending and thought provoking.
Darlinghurst Theatre Company presents
In Real Life
by Julian Larnach
Director Luke Rogers
Venue: Eternity Playhouse | 39 Burton Street Darlinghurst NSW
Dates: 15 Sep – 15 Oct 2017
Tickets: $38 – $54
Bookings: (02) 8356 9987 | www.darlinghursttheatre.com