Left – Reza Momenzada. Cover – Reza Momenzada and Gabrielle Scawthorn. Photos – Phil Erbacher
The most striking aspect of director Suzanne Pereira's production of Mary Anne Butler's The Sound Of Waiting, is the audio visual – son et lumiere – created by video artist & screen designer Samuel Jones and composer and sound designer Tegan Nicholls.
Little daubs and dashes of white light signifying souls are projected onto a screen at the beginning of the piece. They are displaced souls, awaiting annihilation by the Angel of Death, depicted here by a leonine female with irritable vowels and apparently devoid of taste buds, a residue of a strict diet. You can't have the Angel of Death taking off like a belly-distended pelican, can you?
The only soul made incarnate is Hamed Mokri, a displaced soul fleeing a regime that has already cost him a son and wife, who now seeks sanctuary and refuge for his daughter and himself, even if it means risking their souls on storm tossed seas.
The play, or rather a pincer movement between two stanza divisions, oscillates between these two stories told in tandem, with never the twain really meeting until this Angel of Death is threatened with wing clipping unless she can clip this man's will to live.
Mary Anne Butler's text sounds like the enunciated version of a tonal poem. There are no emotional explosions, the tone throughout is cool and casual. Flat. Prattling on in poetic prose that is heavy with exposition from elliptical beginning to end, engendering recitation rather than a performance.
What leaves a mark on the memory of this mercifully short sixty minute piece is the snowflake souls and feathers and sea swells screened on and surrounding the actors, Reza Momenzada as Hamed and Gabrielle Scawthorn as The Angel of Death.
Momenzada, making his professional theatre debut, acquits himself well and survives the sea of prose by surfing the surfeit of laboured lyricism on a life buoy of verisimilitude. As a refugee from Afghanistan, he conveys a palpable credence to the character.
Grief is the thing with feathers and as the Angel of Death, Scawthorn has the heavier task lifting the leaden exposition which could do with some leavening.
The importance of being earnest enervates the entertainment quotient, which was most certainly not the case with Butler's previous play, Broken. The weight of sounding serious, solemn and sombre tends to capsize The Sound Of Waiting.
Darlinghurst Theatre Co presents
The Sound of Waiting
by Mary Anne Butler
Director Suzanne Pereira
Venue: Eternity Playhouse | 39 Burton Street, Darlinghurst NSW
Dates: 31 March – 22 April 2018