Thursday, 12 September 2002

The Simple Truth by Michael Gurr Playbox, Sept 2002

The Simple Truth  by Michael Gurr
Playbox Theatre  at Beckett Theatre, Malthouse
Sept 12 until October 5, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

There is a disturbing quality to Michael Gurr's  new play, The Simple Truth. It challenges an audience to stay alert, to keep abreast of its wave-like motion and to comprehend its twists and abstractions.

It begins enigmatically, with a man engaged in a one-sided conversation with a silent and frightened woman. The air is thick with menace. He seems threatening.

 Hirst, (Kim Gyngell)  the man, we discover to be a police officer. Sarah, (Josephine Byrnes) the distressed woman, came to him to confess. We know neither to what crime nor even whether she committed a crime at all.

The premise of this play is interesting. What constitutes a crime? Is neglect, lack of interest or an unwillingness to help a crime?

As this bewildering relationship develops, we are compelled to ask why the pair seem so intimate so quickly and what is the simple truth of her 'crime'.

The play has an unusual construction. It begins with long monologues: the first from Hirst, the second from Sarah. Eventually they converse. The play is dense with cryptic dialogue and is demanding on the ear. 

Gyngell is both entertaining and menacing as the pseudo-intellectual cop while Byrnes provides a finely tuned performance as the fragile and despairing Sarah.

Bruce Myles  adroitly directs the two actors with a light hand. There is little physical action so the focus is on the speaking character much of the time.

Glenn Hughes'  lighting creates deep shadows and evocative atmosphere. Andrew Pendlebury's  original live guitar is a fine adjunct to the production. It provides the necessary emotional layer. Judith Cobb's  design replicates an interrogation room with Pendelbury seated upstage framed by what could be a two-way mirror.

The play is short and clever. The writing is witty, characters are smart and engage in entertaining repartee and romantic fantasy. What it lacks is an emotional connection for the audience.

There seems to be some connective tissue missing from the narrative or, at least, from the relationship between the two characters. They are pushed suddenly and inexplicably into intimacy, shared fantasy and flirtation. The leaps are not totally unconvincing and make the outcome a little unsatisfying.

Despite this, The Simple Truth is a short and intense experience in the theatre.

By Kate Herbert

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