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Ride and Fourplay

Photo by Robert Catto

Darlinghurst Theatre Company present RIDE and FOURPLAY by Jane Bodie, at the Eternity Playhouse, Burton St, Darlinghurst, 4 September – 4 October.

RIDE and FOURPLAY are two early works from Jane Bodie. Both are lengthy one act plays. The evening is three hours long. It didn’t feel like it on the night I attended.

RIDE (2001), is a two-handed journey as two ‘moderns’ wake up in a bed not remembering how they got there or what subsequently happened. In three scenes, over the course of a wet summer’s day, the two of them interrogate each other, finding the words and language to awaken to a new and burgeoning reality, and at the very last introduce each to the other as Elizabeth and Joe. On a steep diagonally raked platform, with the necessities of bedroom and its props, Designed by Hugh O’Connor, the Director, Anthony Skuse, has brought the play to life with an easeful and intensely observed real-time naturalism with his actors, Tom O’Sullivan and Emma Palmer. Comfortably, they take their time through the ‘geography’ of the play and find (are finding) a rapport to successfully sustain the audience’s interest. The atmospheres and ‘intrigues’ of the text revealed are gently, surreally counterpointed with some beautiful ‘theatrical’ lighting states created by Christopher Page, and otherworldly Sound Design effects, interwoven with the comforting roof-noises of gentle rain by Alistair Wallace. The production requires some generosity of concentration from the audience, but repays it with wry comedy and the luminosities of a beautiful play script-poetry by the writer, Jane Bodie.

In FOURPLAY (2000), after the interval, on the same raked platform, now stripped of furniture, four actors: Gabrielle Scawthorn, Aaron Glenane and again, Emma Palmer and Tom O’Sullivan, take the audience through the journeys of a collapsing relationship and the building of two new ones. This play is written as a non-naturalistic quartet of direct (straight out to the audience) story telling and occasional interactive re-enactments. No props, no set, just the actors, Ms Bodie’s language, imagery and storytelling skill, the watchful shaping hand of Mr Skuse, and the invited imaginative concentration of the audience, combine to make this play a delight to unravel. The absolute absorption of the audience I sat with, in this exploration of shared story-telling, was a sure sign of the quality of all the artists involved. Ms Scawthorn is especially watchable and Mr Glenane, seen, relatively recently in ORPHANS, and last year in GRUSOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES, delivers a simply clued and deeply experienced through-line of storytelling. Whilst, Ms Palmer and Mr O’Sullivan demonstrate, further, the flexibility of their creativity. It is well done.

This retrospective presentation of the work of Ms Bodie, at the Eternity Playhouse, reveals to those of us who know her work, all of the familiar tropes and preoccupations of her carefully honed writings, and allow us to appreciate more finely, the daring of her ‘form’ presentations of commonly experienced, complicated emotional situations told with insightful and deprecatingly funny ‘gestures’, gorgeously embedded in rich poetic trappings of language. The plays feel as modern as if they were just written for us this year, naked and raw to the truths of our remembered younger selves, but just as applicable to the lives of companions about us, today.

The Griffin Theatre has presented her work: THIS YEAR’S ASHES in 2011, and in an Independent co-production with Stories Like These, MUSIC, last year. One hopes that Griffin, Belvoir, or the Sydney Theatre Company have her latest offers on their lists for us to see, for here, in this choice of plays at the Eternity Theatre, we can measure a writer who we deserve to see and relish as her career advances. There is no substitute for consistent quality experiences and Ms Bodie’s work suggests that she is a talent that we ought to be seeing: an Australian writer, an Australian female voice, that should be part of our regular contemporary experience. Where are her gate-keeper champions, to commission and produce her latest works?

Do go to RIDE and FOURPLAY. Go with patience, and the reward will be pleasure. Mr Skuse has, with his team, given her beautiful regard and honour.