Wednesday, 16 April 2003

Slide Night by Simon Hughes, April 16, 2003

Slide Night by Simon Hughes  
La Mama, April 16 to May 4, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Slide Night is only Simon Hughes second play but it is written with intelligence, wit and sympathy.

Hughes may not have written other plays since his first nineteen years ago, but he had an eclectic life as an actor in Shakespeare in the Botanical Gardens, the face of Bendigo Bank and as television critic for The Age.

Michael Carman  plays Edward, a pompous, patronising psychotherapist, with exceptional colour and detail. .Edward's masks his mounting despair at his hollow life with wild intellectual, cynical wit and heavy drinking. Carman inhabits Edward fully and is compelling and believable at every turn.

Edward's cynicism reflects his deeper dark thoughts. Christine Mahoney  plays his shrill and generally tolerant wife with a desperation suited to such a complex and fraught relationship. The fissures in Edward's psyche widen when he meets a new patient, Nick.  (Damian Howling-Walshe)

Howling-Walshe finds more in the performance of this character than is even written by Hughes. He builds a complex inner world that we see flitting across the face of Nick, an attractive young man who admits being a sex addict. Edward's dreams, both waking and sleeping, seem to escalate after encountering Nick. He succumbs to his lethal charm like myriad other before him.

This is an unusual story with anticipated surprises and twists. However, there are some elements that need tweaking in the script. The multiple off-stage characters can become awkward in the playing, particularly in a small venue like La Mama.

The climax of the story is unclear. Nick's appearance at an election night party and the events that lead to Edward's complete disintegration, are confusing. Director, Denis Moore,  sets a cracking pace and allows the actors to truly penetrate the characters.

This play may have a few chinks but it is intelligently written, characters are well observed and it is genuinely entertaining and challenging.

By Kate Herbert

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