Regardless of who or what you believe in, or your outlook on life, one thing is an absolute: that no one is certain what happens to us when we die. Is there blackness and stillness or do we face judgement on how we've led our lives and led to heaven or hell? In Kieran Gould-Dowen's Take A Seat a group of people who've all recently died meet up in purgatory as they wait for their number to be called.
This is a remount of Gould-Dowen's first season of the show in 2017. While there were problems with the pacing and character development initially, Gould-Dowen has made considerable changes with the current incarnation that gives the characters more time to grow and create more affecting stories for them. The most noticeable change is its duration - moving from a 60 minute one-act play to a two hour two-act play - and the addition of several new characters.
Gould-Dowen has used the show as a microcosm of society, and while some of the characters are clichés and stereotypes, there is always some truth within these. There are a number of issues covered in the two hours including suicide, homosexuality, racism, sexism, terminal illness and drug addiction, which can be overwhelming at times and feel like they are not been given the time they require to move beyond the surface of them. The moments of light humour and comedy do lift the mood so that even when the story goes down a very dark (and surprising) path, we are still willing to go along for the ride.
Ruby Wall and Carmelina Di Guglielmo portray their characters with great skill and nuance where you can see them on stage becoming their character and everything they do and think is as their character. The changes that have occurred with Kotryna Gesait and Alexander Gavioli's characters are a welcoming change that gives them more to do than shout at each other. Hannah Vanderheide as the frustrated usher of purgatory, reminiscent of Janet from TV's The Good Place, adds great doses of humour and a brilliant addition to the production.
There are still some problematic narratives, particularly the father and son plot between Adrian Quintarelli and
Ryan Stewart-Schmidt, which seems to lack a sense of realness. There is inconsistency in Melina Wylie's drug addicted Natalia who enters the waiting room as an aggressively sexual person with an attitude problem but leaves humble and docile. Similarly, Aaron James Campbell puts in one of the stronger
performances with his portrayal of the sexist, racist, homophobic David, but
his story arc seems more contrived than genuine.
Despite initial awkwardness with the pacing of this production within the
large ensemble cast (Emily Scerri, Shrut Parmar, Wahyu Kepa, Campbell, Di Guglielmo, Wall, Quintarelli, Gesait, Vanderheide, Gavioli, Wylie and Stewart-Schmidt) they find their rhythm within the first act and keep the momentum going until the play's conclusion. Some tighter direction by Gould-Dowen will help this work flow better and the larger space of Chapel Off Chapel certainly helped this remount.
Take A Seat may be a show about death, but it's also a show about life and reminding us to be better people. There have been great improvements to the show since its original season and while there are still some problems with the narrative and some of the characterisation, Gould-Dowen shows promise in his study of what being human is about.
12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: until 3 September | 7:30pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $30 Concession
Bookings: Chapel Off Chapel