Ride & Fourplay are two individual and independent pieces of theatre both written by Jane Bodie. For the current Darlinghurst Theatre Company production of the plays, director Anthony Skuse has chosen to present them as companion pieces. Both written over 2000-2001, the pieces share a similar writing style and focus on common themes, making Skuse’s decision a sound choice as the works compliment and add depth to one another when shown back to back.
Ride follows young adults Joe (Tom O’Sullivan) and Elizabeth (Emma Palmer) as they try to recollect the memories of the drunken night that led them – complete strangers – to going home together. The stage is well designed, creating an authentic studio bedroom feel without over-cluttering the space with large or cumbersome props. Despite the decent size of the Eternity Playhouse, there is an intimacy inherent in the piece and performances that is both endearing and voyeuristic. While the plot is nothing particularly ground-breaking or new, the piece is written with a wit and authenticity that perfectly captures the awkward humour of a one night stand and combines this nonchalance with deeper feelings of loneliness and emotional concealment that the characters struggle through as they get to know one another.
Both O’Sullivan and Palmer are strong performers throughout the piece. Their chemistry is potent, emotional journeys believable and their comedic timing spot on. Together, their constant back-and-forth between honesty and suppression and tenderness and withdrawal is captivating and charming.
Fourplay, focuses on young couple Tom and Alice (O’Sullivan and Gabrielle Scawthorn) and the complications of their relationship and their growing interest in their respective co-workers Natasha (Palmer) and Jack (Aaron Glenane). In this piece, the incredible writing of Jane Bodie is the undeniable star. The piece is written with beautifully clever language and the unexpected reoccurrence of subtleties and motifs throughout adds a completely new level of emotional complexity to an already profoundly thought-provoking piece. In the dialogue, Bodie explores the concepts of obsession and miscommunication as well as the difficulties of an adult relationship in which the partner’s lives are moving further and further apart. The closing is particularly poignant and leaves you reevaluating the entire piece long after leaving the theatre.
The stage design is unique in the way that there, in fact, isn’t really a stage design to speak of. The actors present the play in casual costuming on a completely barren stage without the use of any props at all. All four cast members are present on stage throughout the entire performance, and use movement and stillness to highlight conversations between only two individuals at any one time.
The cast often addresses their lines directly to the audience instead of to one another. This is by turns uncomfortable and freeing and adds to build the tension of the piece and draw the audience into the voyeuristic nature of Bodie’s writing. This style of performance gives neither the cast nor script anywhere to hide, and it makes both the writing and performances shine.
The entire cast was brilliant and breathtaking in their performances. Each actor’s own individual expressionistic quality filled the silences of the piece with a strikingly complicated tension. Significant praise has to be awarded to Glenane for his performance as Jack. His quirky characterization walks an impressively fine line between a light-hearted humuor and a disconcerting damaged. The nuances and layering that he brings to his character create a boyish intensity that is regularly surprising and consistently mesmerizing.
Three hours is a long time to sit engaged in emotionally complex theatre – that could potentially just be my Gen Y attitude talking – but I cannot recommend watching these shows highly enough. Darlinghurst Theatre Company, the creative team and the cast have all done a spectacular job in the adaptation of Jane Bodie’s works. If you’re looking for a play with the lightness to make you laugh but the depth to leave you thinking well after the curtains have closed then do yourself a favour and go and watch these plays.
Featuring: Aaron Glenane, Tom O’Sullivan, Emma Palmer and Gabrielle Scawthorn
Creative Team: Anthony Skuse (Director), Isabella Kerdijk (Stage Manager), Hugh O’Connor (Production Designer), Christopher Page (Lighting Designer), Alistair Wallace (Sound Designer), Jane Bodie (Writer)
Ride & Fourplay runs until the 4th of October at the Eternity Playhouse on Burton Street. Tickets are available at http://www.darlinghursttheatre.com/whats-on/ride-and-fourplay