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Photograph by Clare Hawley

An Intervention

Last One Standing, in association with Old 505 present, AN INTERVENTION, by Mike Bartlett, at the Old 505, Eliza Street, Newtown, 2019

Mike Bartlett wrote AN INTERVENTION in 2014. He had just had an amazing response to his quasi-Jacobean verse play called KING CHARLES III, which Sydney saw on tour here a few years ago in the Roslyn Packer Theatre. Mr Bartlett is, probably, the outstanding young male writer in the British Theatre at the moment – ‘hot, hot, hot’. The Old Fitz introduced his work to Sydney with a production of COCK (2009) and later with BULL (2013).

AN INTERVENTION, is a play for two actors: A and B – the roles are not gender or age specific. In this instance at the Old 505, Jessica Belle-Keogh is A and Bardiya McKinnon is B. They have met at a party and found that they ‘spark’ each other off. They develop a ‘friendship’ based around their political interests. During the course of this 90 minute, no-interval play, we chart a number of their encounters, that allow us to observe A has a drinking problem, and B has a girlfriend (partner) problem. Should they intervene with each other to help guide the other through difficult times? The play has deeply serious intentions but is guised in truly comic observational accuracies.

In this production, Directed by Erin Taylor, Ms Belle-Keogh and Mr McKinnon have created personas that are agilely fragile and at the same time heaps funny. But even better, these two actors have developed a ‘playing’ rapport that is truly marvellous to see. It is rare to see such seamless bonding and generosity on a Sydney stage. Ms Keogh, skates to the edge of parody but manages to always stay credible and Mr McKinnon anchors his man firmly and sensitively to the reckless driving force of his partner’s offers. These are, in my opinion, the best performances that I have seen these actors give. In fact, the duo are fairly incredible in their simpatico. I saw the play Opening Night, I hope they have managed to maintain their delightful restraint and empathetic give and take and not been tempted to overplay (which one has seen them do, elsewhere, and at other times.) As their work stood when I saw it, these performances are definitely worth seeing. The reward is great even when it is painful.

These two actors with their Director, in a Design by Jonathan Hindmarsh – a set that permits, with the parting of a red curtain and the humour of the performers, the change to many locations – lit (roughly) by Liam O’Keefe, with a bouncy Sound Design by Ryan Devlin, kept everything nicely contained and expectant.

I attended this work at Old 505 because of the writer attached: Mike Bartlett. I promise you an adult, sharp, empathetic, witty time in the theatre. Recently, idly, watching ABC television I became starkly taken by the courage of the writing of a British drama called DOCTOR FOSTER. Boy, oh boy, did it take risks in the trajectory of the story telling and one was stunned by the daring of the actors – especially Suranne Jones (SCOTT AND BAILEY, you will recognise her; her latest is a series called GENTLEMAN JACK, too, unforgettable work), encouraged, undoubtedly, by the strength of the writer. I found that DOCTOR FOSTER was the work of Mike Bartlett.

The Writer is GOD, I say – get god on board with some daring artists and you will probably strike GOLD. Remember the premise and form of KING CHARLES III: about Charles taking the throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth and the machinations of the rest of the royal family, including the ghost of Princess Diana – outrageous and royally entertaining. AN INTERVENTION, is different but just as thrilling to see.

Do go.

P.S. Notice that this company barely acknowledges the writer – his name in tiny, tiny print on the front cover, and NOTHING else. No biography, nothing. Everybody else But the writer – Sydney weird, but tragically, rudely commonplace behaviour in the Sydney Theatre scene.