Left – Jane Harber, Aileen Huynh, Callan Colley. Photo – Brett Boardman
Is it greed or is it kindness that determines our salvation? Who gets to own trauma and who should profit from it? Gloria by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, is genuinely challenging.
More than usual here, the revelation of a major plot incident would drastically compromise audience ‘enjoyment.’ Taking a full act to lead to and a subsequent act to digest, this critical moment means that any discussion other than of location and theme would be seriously irresponsible.
Feeling, initially, like the generic office politics format leaping back and forth between microscope and petri dish, Gloria soon reveals a sophisticated ulterior. Analysis of ambition and the commodity of self is an ugly portal leading directly to and from America. Going nowhere expected and plunging us into the uncomfortable, we are simultaneously pushed to find a vernacular. How do we and how should we talk about this stuff?
Actors playing multiple roles across different acts is used powerfully here with disturbing parallels feeling at times like we are being set up for even uglier repetition of previous events. This is a well-constructed piece of work.
Griffin Theatre Artistic Director Lee Lewis has truly realised this play and created a slick impressive production with a potent collection of actors. Exceptionally well oiled in dialect, this hardworking cast come together and deliver delights recognisable to any office worker. Irritating do nothing girl forever about Starbucks and self. Chino wearing corporate suck with more reputation outside than inside work. Unseen powerbitch demanding from a glass cell. Errand running intern who may or may not be listening in order to nick your job. ‘Every’ office girl unambitious and kinda cracking on with it. Stressy irate nerd from down the corridor and of course – Gloria.
Shake most them around during interval and we have another stock of equally identifiable variables.
Lisa McCune is seriously good in an astonishingly sharp and well observed depiction of two polar opposite women. Her first appearance feels brief and insignificant but her last before interval, astounding. Natural and responsive, this is a considered, intelligent and measured performance from an actor truly deserving of her fine reputation.
Jane Harber deserves massive mention too for a bang on performance as strong across three roles as her perfect accent adjustments across East and West Coast America. Here, amplifying the subtleties of characters we absolutely know from a gavage of ‘Watercooler’ drama, was a rock-solid, hardworking flawless performance.
While a deceptively simple looking show with impressive and ultra-realistic designs by Chistina Smith, anyone watching this play who knows anything of backstage machinations will know that the crew of Gloria deserve a huge shout out for some pretty major, rapid and seamless scenic changes.
I really wanted to meet Gloria again. I felt I was going to and I was infuriated (in a fantastic way) that I didn’t; instead, I met everyone else who really should have taken the time. Funny – tragically – even when it’s your name on the title, it isn’t always your story we get to hear.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Director Lee Lewis
Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Sumner VIC
Dates: 16 June – 21 July 2018
Bookings: mtc.com.au | 8688 0800