‘Afternoon’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by October 4, 2017

‘Afternoon’ is a play by the contemporary Norwegian, playwright, Jon Olav Fosse. Fosse is listed as one of the top 100 living geniuses, and for this, he has been granted a permanent, honorary residence within the Royal Palace grounds in Oslo. He has produced several genres of literature, from poetry and children’s books to novels and plays.

The student ensemble has collaboratively reworked the play to suit the theatre.

This wonderful production can be seen at the New Hayman Theatre, Building 302, at Curtin University, Kent Street in Bentley. The nearest carpark is C9, near the bus station.

The performances are at 7.00 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday until 7th October.

 

The scene is Erna’s, smart modern flat. The attractive set was designed by Bianca Rose, and built by the production manager, Stephen Carr. The walls are white muslin drapes. A window ‘hangs’ against the rear wall. There is a comfortable settee centre stage, with a white leather Scandinavian style chair at the side. A central, opalescent ceiling lamp lights the room, with a standard lamp next to the chair.

Sophie Paice, and the crew of Jemima Hill and Shona Schutz, assisted the stage manager, Chelsea Gibson. As I looked at the four-seater sofa, I cast my mind back to the old Hayman and the ‘joy’ of the poor students having to carry massive pieces of furniture – even pianos – up three flights of stairs, this new theatre is at ground level.

Claire Cockell designed the soft lighting and operated the slow daylight changes sensitively. Lauren Beeton and Callum Christie designed and operated the sound and music.

Although there was no accent required, Donald Woodburn was called in as vocal coach, and with the aid of Maddy Mullins, helped the cast have just the right emphasis and speed of delivery for the tricky dialogue.

A warm welcome to Chantal Victor, who has stepped into Leigh’s shoes whilst he is on long service leave.

 

         A young woman, dressed in a black leotard, smiles as she steps forward. She is ‘Time’ (Lauren Beeton – described as ‘The Old Man’ by the playwright); slowly, she explains to the audience, how life is filled with opposites, black and white, night and day, happiness and sadness. Continuing, Time points out how boring life would be if stability was the norm.

 

        Erna (Amber Gilmour) is a happy, tolerant young woman, but her overpowering, jealous, and manipulating partner, George (Sam Ireland) is starting to become a daily nightmare. Erna has decided that the only answer is to sell her pleasant flat, and move on.

      One day, whilst waiting for a potential buyer to arrive and view the apartment, an extremely nervous old friend, Asle (Ellis Kinnear) calls to say ‘goodbye’. There is a great deal that Asle would like to say to Erna, however, courage is lacking.

      TeresaElise (Molly Earnshaw), who once lived just down the road, has returned to the area to find a home for her mentally retarded, withdrawn sister (Maddy Mullins). Frustratingly, Asle and Erna’s chat is repeatedly interrupted.

      As the house sale progresses, the whole situation takes a strange and dramatic turn.

 

The unusual, but brilliant dialogue is written in the broken and enigmatic style of Samuel Beckett; however, Fosse ties up the loose ends, and even occasionally has his characters speaking their inner thoughts. It takes a couple of minutes to get into this genre, but thanks to the skills of director, Teresa Izzard, who has really truly conquered this complex style, and the assistance of assistant director, Dylan Dorotich, the cast was magnificent. With Beckett, one often takes days to regurgitate, reassess, and discover the hidden meanings, this play just clicks into place and the audience leave totally understanding what they have just seen.

A dialogue comprising partial sentences, make it tricky to the feed of the next actor. Often actors miss chunks of the script as they flounder around with a non-naturalistic writing. This cast were slick, never missing a beat. At one point in the play, during a conversation and when a quick reply was expected, Erna had a massive pause; but her delivery was special, a highlight of the play. The script was often quite dark and serious, and yet the author has built in many pieces of contrasting dry humour.

The cast showed how even the slightest brush against someone could bring revulsion or joy; clever direction from Teresa and the dramaturg, Maddy Mullins.

An unusual play that all theatre students and creative writing scholars should see. Superb work.