For its festival debut, new kid on the block, Poppy Seed Festival, asked artists, individuals and theatre companies to submit proposals for a theatrical production. From all its entries, Poppy Seed Festival green lit four shows to be performed. The final show to open is Vicky Jones’ award-winning The One. Presented by Fire Curtain Co., it is a 65-minute analysis of one couple’s relationship and its use of love, power, and abuse over the course of one night.
From the beginning we can sense that this is not a couple that is completely happy in this relationship as Jo (Kasia Kaczmarek) casually munches away on twisties while Harry (Ben Prendergast) watches porn on the TV as the two have sex. The arrival of Harry's friend Kerry (Emily Tomlins), who believes her partner has just sexually assaulted her, gets the cogs turning for what will eventually be a fateful night for all three.
The One deals with a variety of dark themes, including sexual assault, rape, victim blaming, misogyny and abuse in all its forms within a relationship. While Jones’ writing is still sharp and witty, had she spent more time developing just a few of these issues, there’s a strong chance the play would have felt less rushed overall and have opened up better opportunities to focus on Harry and Jo’s motivations and convictions, subsequently establishing a stronger connection between these characters and the audience.
That said, Prendergast shines as Harry and is probably one of the best performances I have seen this year. He portrays Harry's malevolence quite naturally and so subtly that even when he is seemingly being loving and affectionate, the way he speaks, the way he stands and the way he stares, makes you second-guess his intentions. This discreet Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde interpretation, encapsulates the profound grasp that Prendergast has of Harry's character and knowing so convincingly what makes him tick.
Similarly, Kaczmarek is intriguing to watch as Jo as we witness her struggle in surviving this relationship. Her conflict in knowing her true love, her one, is the same love that is actually suffocating her and killing her, is well portrayed. The final scene between the couple is extremely powerful and effective in conveying the idea of being caught in a cycle of abuse while being so desperate to escape from it. As the lights come down, you can't help but feel a mixture of relief and fear about what comes next for these characters.
Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: Until 13 December | Tue- Sat 8:00pm, Sun 6pm
Bookings: fortyfive downstairs
* Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 7 December