Review by Giddy Pillai
If you’ve ever spent any amount of time in a sharehouse you’ll feel instantly at home in For the Time Being – an energy packed, thoroughly entertaining offering from Stacks On Theatre. Before the actors even set foot on the stage you’ll smile to yourself at the telltale signs of a space made to serve as home to a random collection of people, for an indeterminate – but decidedly temporary – period of time. There’s the cheap 1990s screen door; the minimal, mismatched furnishings; the most generic of all houseplants; the single thong abandoned without context in the middle of a room. And in the middle of it all there’s the well-worn couch – unabashedly un-fancy, but cosy enough to serve as the centrepiece for bleary-eyed morning coffees, petty domestic battles, deep and meaningful conversations, and an (almost) nightly tradition of family beers. It’s the kind of place that promises to make up for its lack of creature comforts with belly laughs and stories for the ages. In the 50 minutes I got to spend there, it did not disappoint.
This particular sharehouse is home to four twenty-somethings: firey but uncertain Vive (Brittany Santariga), sensitive, lovelorn Gordy (Harlee Timms), tortured partyboy Jack (James Thomasson) and scruffy, go-with-the-flow Pat (Lachlan Stevenson, also the playwright and director). For the last 15 nights and counting, it’s also been home to Vive’s new boyfriend Johnny (Kyle Barrett), with the begrudging acceptance of the others. This mix of personalities makes for an interesting interpersonal dynamic, which is deftly handled by the cast. This is a true ensemble show, and all five actors stand out individually while also blending in with each other seamlessly. They also look like they’re having a ton of fun, and this makes for a delightful watch.
The play opens with a bang, with a symphony of morning rituals, and unfolds over a 24-hour period. There’s plenty of inherent drama and a treasure trove of comic supply in domestic minutiae, and the cast lean hysterically into this, bringing their all to parliamentary committees held atop the coffee table, debates about the best way to make a cup of instant coffee and a madcap scramble to get a very messy place in order before a routine inspection. But there’s also a ton of heart, thanks to Stevenson’s subtle acknowledgement of the strange mix of existential undercurrents that go hand in hand with share-housing. There’s the anxious awareness that your overbearing landlord has the power to make you homeless at any moment for minimal cause; the relief of knowing that this imperfect place won’t be your forever home; the pieces of yourself that you inevitably leave behind in each house you pass through; the weird nostalgia you end up building out of the forced ritual of hopping from place to place. These elements lend For the Time Being weight, and a sense of being part of a broader conversation about housing inequity that feels particularly important at the moment. But at its heart, this is an unabashed high energy comedy, and a bloody good time. After all, when faced with life forces beyond your control, sometimes there’s nothing to do but invite all your mates around and throw a wild, goon-drenched party, consequences be damned.
When I left the theatre the thought that rang in my head was ‘I hope loads of people go and experience that for themselves because it was great’ – and it’s a thought I’ve kept returning to. Stacks On have created something to love on so many levels. If you’re a fan of sitcoms like Friends and New Girl, this show is for you. If you’re a theatre nerd and like discovering fresh new work, this show is for you (and this is a company to keep your eye on). If you just want to drop out of your life and laugh for 50 minutes straight, this show is for you. Go see it. You’ll love it. I promise.