Director Brett Garland told me that this is the first feature play that he has directed, and he has done a terrific job, especially considering the constraints of such a small performance space. Some modifications were made to the script, as ‘Estranged’ was written by British writer Jason Charles and Aussie references were substituted for British ones, but the play travels well from England to rural NSW, where the action of the play is set.
Sam and Sylvia are about to get married, but the arrival of Sam’s cousin and aunt on the eve of the wedding causes a stir, and signals a disaster in the making. Sam is nervous about his impending marriage, and with his out and proud cousin Justin up from Sydney we begin to get a sense of why Sam is stressed. There is unresolved tension between the two men, and it is not just any garden variety family squabble. In fact, none of the plot twists in ‘Estranged’ are garden variety, they make the family dramas of Dallas (remember the eighties?) look like the Brady Bunch. Nothing is sacred, and it made for very entertaining theatre, in spite of an incongruous looking cast.
Natalie Page was a bit over the top as Millicent, especially next to the comparatively restraint Tim Crowe as Sam. Sam’s turmoil is not really apparent until the second act, when Sam becomes enraged by his cousin, who he feels has pulled the rug out from under him. Matt Scott (Justin) is a laugh, and when he drops his flamboyant façade, he is just as brilliant. Other cast including Lena Sandburg (Sylvia) and Diab Metry (Martin) keep us guessing: will they meet up again? Will the deliciously cheeky Martin keep Sylvia’s secret?
The absolute best scene stealing performance in Estranged was by Helena Telford as Sam’s Aunt Lydia. Telford was marvellous as she glided through her scenes in what her sister Millicent describes as Mata Hari-inspired sleepwear. With a penchant for much younger men, she practically purrs like a cat as she cosies up to Sam’s friend Martin. And again we are kept guessing: will they or won’t they? I hope so, even though cougars have gone from trendy to tragic in recent times. A fun night out, try not to miss this.
On at the Tap Gallery in Darlinghurst till 23 Feb, for more info: www.tapgallery.org.au
For tickets: http://www.trybooking.com/Embed.aspx?eid=72050