Tuesday 23 January 2024

The Inheritance review (Midsumma Festival)

We don't often get epic seven-hour plays being performed, especially when the idea of sitting in a theatre for that long and watching a story unfold not only seems foreign but also incredibly difficult. I too am guilty of this as I often catch myself questioning whether I really want to see a play over two hours. But exceptions there are, and in this case it is Matthew López's The Inheritance. First staged in 2018, the narrative focuses on a group of gay men spread across three generations as they try to find their place in the world while understanding the world that has opened up for them due to the fights and struggles of those from their past. Under the direction of Kitan Petkovksi, this Melbourne production of The Inheritance vividly brings these characters and stories to life in a deeply emotional and affecting evening that needs to be experienced by all.

Petkovksi has achieved a remarkable feat of assembling such a formidable cast. Charles Purcell as the 30-something Eric Glass, a middle class Jewish man living in New York brings forth a genuine optimism and hopefulness despite a number of obstacles being thrown at him. Tomáš Kantor delivers a compelling performance as the self-absorbed but highly troubled writer boyfriend to Eric, Toby Darling. Kantor shows great skill in their ability to simultaneously convey Toby's arrogance as well as his anxieties and fears in a very challenging role. Purcell and Kantor make a wonderful pairing with their scenes together as they elicit a strong sense of history and familiarity to their relationship.

Dion Mills provides the plays most powerful moment of The Inheritance during Walter Poole's heartbreaking monologue where he tells/reminds Eric (and us) the devastating impact of the AIDS virus in his community during the 80s. It is a lot of exposition but Mills brings pain and love to each and every single word he utters and he ends up presenting an absorbing story for the audience to acknowledge and sit with. In a smaller but very effective role is Jillian Murray as Margaret, a woman who has lost her son to AIDS and now tends to Walter's property. Her retelling of her regrets when it came to accepting her son for who he was is harrowing to see unfold.

The gay chorus (Iopu Auva'a, Rupert Bevan, Juan Gomez, Javon King, Joss McClelland, Christian Taylor and Alex Thew) are also brilliant and utilised superbly by Petkovski to fill the space, make comments or observations (both verbal and non-verbal) and provide props for each scene. They are particularly impressive when adding their own sexual energy when Toby and Eric start getting hot and heavy with each other. There are a few opening night nerves of speaking over each other but given the demands of being on stage for so long with so many people in a scene it's something that will quickly be overcome. They also take on supporting roles throughout the production and it's hard to take your eyes off King's portrayal of Tristan, a physician with HIV. The way he moves his body and changes his facial expressions depending on the situation playing out is absolutely captivating. Bevan is a joy to watch when he flexes his comedic muscles as a theatre usher and a self-important "faux art" artist.

While López script falls victim to a few instances of forced political and social problems conversations, the way he explores the three generations is something that ought to be recognised and commended. López affords these characters the opportunity to breathe and to be. We get to spend time with them and watch them spend time with each other and build relationships that compel us to consider what current generations of gay men owe those that have come before them, living and dead, and also the role that the gay men of the present play in guiding the younger generations.

Petkovksi has not let the limitations of being an independent production prevent him and his creative team from delivering on exceptional design elements. A play of this calibre does not mean you need to go big with set, lighting or sound designs, you just need to be smart and perceptive with what the scene needs. Rachel Lewindon's sound design beautifully sets up scenes and helps paint the picture for much of the exposition that occurs and works well with Katie Sfetkidis' intuitive lighting design. Bethany J Fellows' set design fits perfectly within the worlds of each of the three generations that allow López's script, Petkovksi's direction and the ensemble’s performance to add the detail to the scenes.

Petkovski has no doubt spent hours, days, weeks and months preparing this local production of The Inheritance. Taking on this Tony-award winning play would have been a daunting task but he has smashed many expectations on what independent theatre can achieve. Shows like this do not come around often and The Inheritance is bound to be one of the best shows of the year.

Click here
for our interview with director, Kitan Petkovksi.

Show Details

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Season: until 11 Feb | 7pm
This is a two-part production. Date pairs are pre-determined by the venue and cannot be altered or mixed. The assigned date pairings can be viewed by clicking on the bookings link below.
Duration: Each part runs for approximately 190 minutes

Tickets: $109 Full | $99 Concession
Bookings: Midsumma Festival

Image credits: Cameron Grant

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