Review by Sandra Harman
International artist, Crystal Arons started Moonspark Productions out of a desire to create a female led company that didn’t isolate people based on their body shape. Arons noticed that within the Australian arts scene there exists a preoccupation with the ideal body, and it wasn’t until she was working in the UK that she had the joy of witnessing curvy goddesses gracing the stage. She found it a relief to be in a place that employed people for their craft and skill rather than what they looked like, and although things have improved in the industry here with more indigenous storytelling and diversity casting, there is still a lack of opportunity for curvy women.
Arons came across this play about two years ago, fell in love with the writing and instantly connected with the character of Laura, realizing that this was a role she had to play but may never get the opportunity to do so. It was the play she had been waiting for.
Beginning, by UK playwright David Eldridge about two strangers desperately seeking common ground is the first in a trilogy of plays to look at love and relationships. Taking place in real time, it is a sharp and astute two hander that explores love and loneliness and the shame of being single in the age of the dating app and social media boasting.
Every story starts somewhere… and this one begins in the aftermath of Laura’s housewarming party at her new flat in Crouch End. She finds herself alone with Danny, a plus one of a friend, who is now the last remaining guest. Laura is 38, successful, assured, single, and childless. Danny is 42 with low self-esteem, divorced, estranged from his daughter and living with his mother. While it is clear from the beginning that Laura fancies Danny and would like him to stay, Danny, although attracted to Laura, is less overt and reluctant to share his true feelings. Over the course of the evening, the two drink, converse, argue, dance, and consume fish finger sandwiches as they gradually let their outward veneers slip giving away their imperfections and insecurities, while underneath the sexual tension becomes palpable. Will this odd couple fall in love at first sight? To say more would include spoilers and this is a play that needs its characters’ deeper secrets to be discovered as the story unfolds.
Crystal Arons as Laura and Jesse Blachut as Danny are perfectly matched, as the mis-matched strangers. They both skillfully peeled away the layers of these characters with honesty and insight and made us care deeply about their futures. There was a connectedness between the two performers that allowed them to play together beautifully, drawing out much humour and poignancy. Arons seemed supremely comfortable in Laura’s skin, embodying her outward confidence and outspokenness with ease yet skillfully allowing us to glimpse the emptiness and dissatisfaction underneath, the yearning for perhaps a different life than the once she has carved out for herself. Blachut gave us a wonderfully awkward, ungainly Danny not comfortable in social situations who avoids all Laura’s attempts at seduction by several evasive tactics, yet we are aware of some previous hurt lying under the surface blocking his path to reaching happiness. It is thanks to the excellent acting by Arons and Balchut that we were fully engaged through the 100 minutes of this tender and funny journey.
The staging is simple to represent a modern London flat and is suitably cluttered with all the after-party remnants that many of us would be familiar with. Lighting and sound design by Tim James and Tommy Civilli respectively are appropriate for the mood and setting of the play.
Heidi Gledhill directs this intimate slice of life with sensitivity and a subtle touch, allowing the acting to shine, the comedy to land and the awkward silences to breathe. Beautifully paced, nothing is rushed to spoil the natural rhythm and she encourages us to witness the smaller moments, the nuances of the action. Gledhill states that “Beginning serves as a reminder that every encounter, every connection we make, has the possibility to transform us. It urges us to embrace the uncertainty, to find solace in vulnerability, and to recognise the beauty in the fragility of human relationships.”
This is a worthy addition to the must-see productions showing on Brisbane stages at the present time. Beginning plays until 29th July.