Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Monday, 1 May 2017
The Realistic Joneses, April 30, 2017 *** 1/2
THEATRE ByWill Eno, by Red
Stitch Actors Theatre Red Stitch Actors Theatre, until May 28, 2017 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Monday May 1, 2017 and later in print. KH
Neil Pigot & Sarah Sutherland - photo credit Teresa Noble Photo
and experiences are simultaneously achingly familiar and strangely alien in Will
Eno’s eccentric play, The Realistic Joneses.
married couple, Bob (Neil Pigot) and Jennifer Jones (Sarah Sutherland) live in
an American mountain town and, one night, their new, younger neighbours, John
(Justin Hoskin) and Pony (Ella Caldwell) Jones, drop by to greet them, with a
clatter of rubbish bins and a bottle of wine.
shared surname and Pony’s odd first name are not the only unusual things about
this young couple, as Bob and Jennifer discover in each ensuing and intermittent
meeting, whether it be a chance encounter or a planned get-together.
well-crafted play is a series of short scenes between the various characters,
starting with the recognisably awkward interactions of strangers, then slowly
transforming as these four, lonely and troubled characters unveil their
intimate secrets and reveal their darkest fears to each other.
Meyrick’s assured direction focuses on the evolving relationships and balances
comedy with poignancy.
compelling as the ailing, ageing and blunt Bob, and he projects a moving
frailty, vulnerability and childlikeness as Bob struggles to organise and
communicate his befuddled thoughts.
nuanced performance, Sutherland captures Bob’s beleaguered wife Jennifer’s
painful sense of loneliness and loss as she wrestles with the frustrating
day-to-day reality of Bob’s failing health.
portrays John initially as an oddball who converses in an annoying series of
quips and non-sequiturs, then deftly transforms John into a frightened man who
begins to open his heart, first to Jennifer, then Bob and, finally – maybe – to
his wife, Pony.
balances Pony’s bizarre behaviour with a sensitive depiction of her as a nervy
child-woman who does not understand her own thoughts and fears or even the
world around her.
the title of the play, these two Jones couples struggle with reality, and Eno’s
narrative and style straddle a peculiar line between realism and the absurd, or
existential philosophy and wacky situation comedy.
characters seem sadly isolated in their marriages and in their neighbourhood,
frightened by their circumstances or bemused by their fates.
Eno’s play is not fatalistic or depressing but, rather, it is thoughtful and,
by its end, almost Buddhist in the way it encourages both characters and
audience to accept their lives and their partners as they are, not as they want
them to be.
Realistic Joneses is gentle and offbeat storytelling by a clever, dramatic