It’s quite a challenge to take on such a well known script. Especially one that is famous both as a Hollywood big name blockbuster and as a play which has been produced regularly in theatres across the country. Ubiquitous in drama schools, it has become somewhat of a rite of passage for young actors since it’s inception in 1997. Twenty years on, the edgy story-line and sexual explicit conversations are far less shocking, but the themes are no less relevant. The love square plot, melodrama and on-point wit offer generous opportunities for actors who are up to it. And the actors here are up to it.
Tidal Waif present an amateur production which is deceptively professional. Many moments offer performances that are quite breathtaking, particularly that of Eliza Lawrence, who plays Alice with seductive prowess combined with intense vulnerability – and it’s thrilling to watch. Esme Allman offers contrast and subteltly as Anna, while Rufus McGrath and Michael Hajiantonis bring the light and shade of emotion and humour as Dan and Larry. The casting of Larry is somewhat less credulous than the others and some of the dialogue is at times slightly lost (with the exception of Lawrence’s perfect crisp diction), factors which do mark this out as amateur, but only to a minor degree. The cast maintain the emotional tension and energy throughout and are excellent at the nuanced humour, achieved not only through the delivery of the dialogue, but emphasised beautifully in the non verbal.
The set is simple but effective and scene changes are effortlessly fluid. Relatively minimal but evocative furniture, props and costume, along with lighting and soundscape, present the differences between the scenes and represent the passage of time.
Closer is a triumph for this new company, founded in September of last year. In some ways a big name play is a risk, but then it’s also a safety net in terms of proven success and is a little bit hack. I get the feeling this company has much yet to explore and their take on a lesser known or new text would be really interesting to see.