Saturday 1 September 2018

2:20am review

2:20am is a new Australian play by award winning playwright Rebecca Lister on the aftermath of suicide and how those closest to a person who has suicided, attempt to move on with their own lives. Drawing from her own personal experience with a family member who committed suicide, as well as a series of interviews conducted with those bereaved by it, 2:20am is an affecting story of mourning, acceptance, resilience and hope. 

In 2:20am, a group of people who have all had a family member commit suicide, come together in a writing workshop in their efforts to heal from the hurt and the emptiness, and to face the reality of their circumstances. There is some strong work from the talented ensemble, Izabella Yena, Joanne Davis, Michael Treloar and Zoe Ellerton-Ashley, as they build authentic relationships between their characters from their initial introductions until their "graduation". I've only seen Yena on stage a handful of times, but each time I do, her performances have been a highlight of the show with the freshness and energy that she brings, and I just don't know why we are not seeing more of her.

As Dave, Treloar finds a sensitive and reflective side to male grief that thankfully doesn't resort to shouting. Kudos to Lister for not only making Dave a man who isn't afraid to share his emotions with other men but for allowing it to be normal. Davis' Trish is a mix of fragility and frustration at suddenly being a single mum of three children while everyone around her wonders when she's going to get back to work. Ellerton-Ashley evokes a calm and soothing persona as Emma the facilitator of the writing group, who is still grappling with the effects of her brother's suicide and trying to keep everything together for the sake of her family.

Lister's exploration of how people cope after a family member's suicide is done in a way that never has its audience feeling overwhelmed with dread and grief. Despite the seriousness of the issue, there are lovely, light-hearted moments littered throughout the show, from Trish's throwaway line of what curry to cook for the group next week to a spontaneous musical moment. Through Hallie Shellam's direction, the small dramatic moments that do play out are done so with enough tension and emotion that keep you engaged in 2:20am's story and the characters.

There is a beautiful simplicity and bareness to the script and stage design that it's disappointing the lighting and sound designs do not seem to support this. There does not appear to be any consistency with these elements in signifying place, time or tone. The lighting in particular allows scenes to be inexplicably played out in near darkness or with lighting that isn't blocked properly in catching the whole scene. A rethink in the approach of these areas, and having faith that its audience will be able to distinguish between what is happening to the characters on stage and when they are reading out their writing, would allow the performance and writing of 2:20am to strengthen. 

With its heartfelt humour and honest writing, Lister has produced a thoughtful and touching reflection on how the living keep on going after those closest to them have ended their lives. 2:20am lingers in your mind but not in a dark and heavy way. It's more a reinforcement and reminder to be aware of the people in your life and to make sure they know you care.

Venue: Richmond Theatrette, 415 Church St, Richmond. 
Season: until 9 September | Wed - Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm 
Tickets: $28 Full | $22 Conc 
Bookings: Anvil Productions

Image credit: Kim Landy

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