Friday, 15 November 2002

Rapture , Nov 15, 2002

Rapture  by Joanna Murray-Smith  
Playbox Theatre  at Merlin Theatre, Nov 14 until November 30 , 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The question asked in Joanna Murray-Smith's play, Rapture, is, What do the godless do when their best friends discover faith?

In this middle-class faithless society, couples such as these live in comfort. They are high functioning, professional, self-serving city-dwellers. They live self-satisfied, neat, Nike-coloured lives.

Murray-Smith captures the smugness and obsession with image of this clan of forty-somethings. They are dislikeable but recognisable types who talk at each other rather than communicate.

The writing is smart, witty and sometimes glib. The play is a series of speeches and rants by individuals peppered with snatches of short, interrupted dialogue.
At times, this feels uncomfortable for both actor and listener.

The characters become ciphers for particular messages. They are vehicles for the writer's voice rather than fully developed characters.

Henny  (Marg Downey) known on TV as the Glamorous Gourmet,  is married to Harry,  (Greg Stone) winner of Real Estate Agent of the Year.  They epitomise the tacky, style-obsessed urban elite.

When they disappear for seven months after their home is burnt to ashes, their friends worry.

Publisher, Eve  (Natasha Herbert) and her award-winning novelist husband, Tom  (Neil Pigot) plan a reunion dinner when finally they track down Henny and Harry.

They invite Dan, ( Paul English) a journalist, and Jane  (Belinda McClory) his wife, a documentary film-maker.

The performances are all excellent. This is a fine cast assembled by director, Jenny Kemp.

Downey and Stone encapsulate beautifully the detached superiority of the couple who discover faith.

Herbert plays the glamorous Eve with style. As her husband, Tom, Pigot is a prowling, caged cat ready to pounce on those who attack his artist's lifestyle.

English brings warmth and richness to Dan and McClory comes into her own when Jane's secret is revealed.

The set by Dale Ferguson  is a cool steel and glass prison that seems to trap these couples in their own vanity. The stage is lit imaginatively by Rachel Burke.

This is entertaining theatre in many ways. Although it challenges the shallowness of these lives it remains superficial in its delivery.

By Kate Herbert

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