Presented as part of La Mama Theatre's Explorations season of works in various stages of development, Margaret Hickey's Us provides an insight into six very different lives bound by one thing in common, a connection to others. Through six ten-minute monologues, these stories are explored in a light-hearted yet truthful way that has us questioning what it is we are seeking from other people.
Hickey has struck gold in assembling the cast that she has for this show. Natalie Carr, Travis McMahon, Ned Napier, Daniel Rice, Sally-Anne Upton and Janet Watson Kruse, all find the essence of their characters and their individual displays of equal bravado and vulnerability are perfectly captured. It is clear that each has put in much thought as to how their character carries themselves and their state of mind.
Of course, the great acting is complemented by Hickey's strong writing. Each story begins somewhat predictably with the actors playing to the stereotype of their character, however Hickey creates a twist to each story that has us considering these people in a very different light. There is an incredible emotional depth to the monologues that allows us to connect with each and every story.
Hickey ensures the idea of an "us" is felt throughout the show and is highlighted by her call-backs and references to the other monologues. There are a number of characters who mention football or scrap-booking for example, and at one point, Upton refers to herself as an "old bird" and soon after we are introduced to Rice's character who is a bird-watcher. It is this elegant attention to the smaller things that make Us such a rich and rewarding piece of theatre.
The direction by Matthew Emond further pushes this idea of interconnectedness with all characters remaining on stage for the whole show. They are always present, surrounding the individual whose story it is, watching and listening just as intently as we are.
It's hard to believe Us is still a work in development because the production seems to be almost flawless. It is a beautiful piece that explores humanity and what it is that connects us with other people. You can't help but walk out of the theatre feeling like there is no longer an I or you or him or her or them but a we, that despite our differences, we really are an us.
Us was performers between 16 - 18 October at La Mama Theatre.
* Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 19 October