Left – Nicholas Bell and Linda Cropper. Cover – Johnny Carr, Linda Cropper and Nicholas Bell. Photos – Jeff Busby
Modelled in honour of his brief but pivotal relationship with a terminally ill friend, Aiden Fennessy has written a stunning examination of our quest for the acceptable and appropriate when the axis of life inevitably tilts. Beautifully written, hilariously funny and performed with raw honesty and impeccable timing, the joy of The Architect is that excruciatingly tough questions feel answered with logic and compassion.
The Architect is a celebration of the choices we have and the options we may choose in our lives and indeed, about our lives. Simultaneously a sublime comedy and powerful domestic social drama, this is a deeply moving and wonderful piece of new Australian writing that is joyous in idiom and perfectly reflective of right here and right now.
Director Peter Houghton has meticulously grounded this work with absolute empathy for the writing and the journeys of its characters while thoroughly considering every aspect of production. Perfect in pace, light in its darkest moments and never once playing the problem, this is fine compassionate directing bringing forward four outstanding performance from four incredibly accomplished actors.
As terminally ill Helen, Linda Cropper is simply outstanding. Brave and profoundly astute, Cropper summons every ounce of humour and strength in the face of diminishing life and realises this articulate, self-aware and defiant woman with conviction and dignity in what feels like an award-winning performance.
In dismissing female ‘help’ in the very early stages of the play, Fennessy affords an examination of male response to trauma. The three very different men present for Helen in her latter days provides a spectrum of reaction to the management of loss.
As her current partner, Nicholas Bell is both stoic and crumbling in his predicament. A humorous portrayal of eccentricity, love and warmth, this really good work ensures we feel deeply for him throughout.
Elusive and absent, Stephen Phillips is fully committed as Helen’s initially cold and closed son Jeremy. With a back story provided long before his arrival, questioning the intentions of others while alluding to his own is revealing and an interesting watch as he unravels our prejudices along with those of his character.
While the play is a force for both the character of Helen and indeed for Linda Cropper playing her, it’s hard not to hand the evening to Johnny Carr. Bringing astounding joy to sombre subject matter, Carr is simply perfect as handsome lovable rogue Lenny. Seducing Helen and indeed us with decency, common sense and depth, his unfolding backstory shreds first impressions to reveal emotional intelligence and an endearingly simplistic life view that, while innate, has been cultivated by circumstance. Aiden Fennessy is an extraordinary comedic wordsmith and through the impeccable timing of Johnny Carr, we are the absolute beneficiaries.
The MTC recently announced its 2019 season will feature six Australian plays and this is as it should be. Of course, we need a supply of classics, important too, an external perspective with emerging international work but The Architect is an extraordinary example of our own wonderful stories that while universal in theme, are so firmly rooted here.
The Architect is incredibly good theatre, really really good theatre – and while it will haunt, it will also soothe upon recollection of its incredible warmth, abundant hilarity and life affirming message.
And for the thoughtfully placed tissues – thank you MTC – nice touch.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
by Aidan Fennessy
Director Peter Houghton
Venue: The Sumner | Southbank Theatre, 140 Southbank Blvd, Southbank VIC
Dates: 27 September – 31 October 2018