Review by Olivia Ruggiero
3:33am is a new Australian play written by Anjelica Murdaca. Currently playing at KXT as part of the Panimo Pandemonium Festival, this work centres around a heterosexual couple and gives the audience a glimpse into their lives as they struggle with mental health, substance abuse and the everyday challenges of being young and being in love.
The opening segments of the play are clearly meant to establish the relationship and dynamic between Aaron (portrayed by Isaac Harley) and Bella (portrayed by playwright Anjelica Murdaca), however without that necessary chemistry being achieved, unfortunately these young actors come across more as mates than two people in a committed relationship. Harley has some great one-liners and demonstrates some good comedic timing – his rendition of “L-O-V-E” was one of the more genuine moments in the show. Hopefully as Murdaca and Harley settle into the run they will find some more ease in their performances which will lead to more believability in their chemistry.
As the play progresses the script hints at just how serious and long term this relationship is, yet for most of the play it feels as if this couple are children playing with very serious adult subjects. The play opens with heavy themes and continues on this path. It doesn’t let up for the full hour and a quarter which means there is a lack of heightened stakes in the show. Everything is heavy handed and treated with such intensity. As an audience we don’t get to witness the ebb and flow of their relationship and hardships which ultimately leaves a sense of lacking at the play's climax. In order for these important themes to have an impact there has to be light and shade within the piece which was not quite achieved in this production. There is promise in the script – it certainly has the potential to hit home and makes some clear-cutting points about mental health, it just needs more time to be developed and worked.
The AV design is simple yet effective as the clock tracks the progression of the play. There are slight inconsistencies though, there are scenes where the clock seems to tick over as time passes and others when it stands still. It is unclear if this is symbolic of something or whether it is just a technical issue that will be corrected as the run continues. The AV design could have been aided more by the lighting which seemed incredibly similar throughout the play. Some differentiation between morning, afternoon and late evening would not have gone astray and would have added another element to this production. The scene changes are a little clunky and seem to go on for a while with prolonged blackouts where nothing much seems to be happening – there is a chance for development here.
Lachlan Knight does well to use the space at KXT to its full potential. There are moments though when the actors almost have too much to do. In one particular scene Aaron (Harley) scrambles to find his phone despite the fact it’s evidently sitting there on the table in plain sight – he can see it, we as an audience can see it – yet he follows what is clearly his direction to look for his phone. This causes a little too much business on stage and lacks credibility.
3:33am has massive potential. It deals with important and relevant topics. With some time and development this play will hopefully blossom into a wonderful piece of Australian theatre.