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Review: An Intervention at the Old 505

By Lali Gill 

An Intervention, written by Mike Barlett, is an exploration of friendship, responsibility, and the murky territory that exists at the boundary between them. We follow two friends, (best friends, though one maintains that only “children” say that) as they discover what it means to them to be a friend and be there for someone, and to live life autonomously. Using a difference in opinion on a political issue as a starting point, it shows how this crack grows into a deep fissure between them - but was it ever really about politics? Playing at the Old 505, a venue I love, I was looking forward to a piece that was real and refreshing, and was not disappointed.

Jessuca-Belle Keogh as ‘A’ and Bardiya McKinnon as ‘B’ occupy the stage through the course of their tumultuous friendship,  and both give excellent performances throughout. Keogh is hilarious and larger than life, but at times slightly too large - I found myself wishing her performance was a little more downplayed at times, not only to match the scale on which her co-lead was playing, but also as she was, at times, distracting. That being said, Keogh’s performance was still beautifully committed and felt real, and her comic timing is close to impeccable. She was completely present throughout, and never lost A’s boundless energy or momentum.

McKinnon too is brilliant, his characterisation detailed and complex. He presents on stage with such honesty and authenticity, and his lowkey delivery of jokes landed time after time. Both Keogh and McKinnon are actors I trusted completely to carry me along on their journey, and the text was comfortable and safe in their hands. I knew I was in for a treat from scene one. Their connection on stage was strong, and every physical interaction or piece of dialogue felt natural and believable as they moved through different stages in their friendship.

Direction by Erin Taylor was strong. She struck the right balance between being static and too busy, letting the actors exist simply in the space, without leaving them sitting on the couch for too long. A clear vision of the show and slick, practical blocking allowed the text to communicate its ideas. The uncomplicated set, designed by Jonathan Hindmarsh, worked well to accommodate the intimate story. The actors carried pieces of furniture on and off together between scenes, which helped the space to really connect with their world, and was a perfect backdrop for the actors to tell their story. Lighting and sound effects were used sparingly but successfully, with occasional sudden spotlights used to frame asides, creating a self-aware, almost cabaret-like tone.

The story itself seems simple, but all sorts of intricacies play out within the duo’s clever and roughly funny dialogue. The characters, and the questions that they raise, are complicated and never definitively answered. Does true friendship mean unconditional support? When is ‘truth-telling’ just being mean, or covering up your own insecurities? And what do you do when your mate’s new girlfriend really sucks? The ending, without spoiling anything, was powerful, yet in my eyes somewhat unnecessary, going for crude shocks instead of the subtle, witty interplay that the rest of the play thrives in. I wonder if the writer could have achieved the same message in a more metaphorically resonant way, as the ideas within the conclusion are still strong. Regardless, Bartlett’s exploration of the complexities of friendship was beautiful to me, and I’m sure many moments resonated with every audience member in a way or another.

I recommend this production - it was an engaging night at the theatre.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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