By Lali Gill
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Gloria is an outstanding piece - exploring the danger of ambition, trauma, grief, and the American workplace, it’s a show that’s probably going to stay on your mind for days after leaving the theatre.
In this incredibly slick production by Outhouse Theatre Co and the Seymour Centre, director (and lighting designer!) Alexander Berlage has created an extremely bleak world, one in which we do not meet one single protagonist, but rather get to know a few people well in a short amount of time. His is some of the strongest direction I’ve seen in Sydney this year.
The curtains open to a bright, sleek office set - some work tables, a photocopier in the corner. Set designer Jeremy Allen does not miss a beat, the office feeling real to the point of making me slightly depressed within ten seconds of looking at it. Allen’s skills continue to shine with each change, and his set works in harmony with the staging and cast. Costuming is brilliant too, feeling perfectly suited to every character at every stage.
We’re introduced to Dean (Rowan Witt), Ani (Annabel Harte), and Kendra (Michelle Ny), assistants to editors of the magazine they all work for. Miles (Justin Amankwah) is an intern, youthful and fresh faced, with headphones in as he fetches snacks from vending machines for his supervisors. Actors play multiple characters throughout this play, with Jacobs-Jenkins handing the cast plenty of opportunities to impress us, most of which they took.
Harte was hilarious as Sasha, embodying the character completely and reminding us that we all know someone just like that. Her portrayals of Ani and Callie were weaker but still solid, fitting naturally into the dynamic of their scenes. As much as Ny suited the character of Jenna, her portrayal of Kendra did her less justice and her performance in this character felt very one-note and unconvincing to the point of being demonstrative in the delivery.
Georgina Symes plays the offices’ unpopular staff member; Gloria, and later Dean’s boss; Nan, giving an incredibly dynamic performance as both of them. Her energy on stage is engaging and human. Equally skilled is Reza Momenzada as Lorin, who makes you laugh before he makes you question if you’re in the right profession.
Amankwah as Miles, Shawn, and Rashaad is impressive also, showing huge range between his three characters, whilst still seemingly keeping a part of himself in all of them. He is very likeable on stage, the text feeling comfortable and natural in his hands but with a twist of animation at times, for comedy, which always landed.
The standout performance in Gloria is given by Witt, whose natural ability and extensive experience in the performing arts is evident as he authentically delivers a truly faultless performance start to finish. With some of the most detailed characterisation I’ve seen in a while, Witt perfectly humanises both of his characters through all of their stages in the story. His comedic abilities shine, too.
Gloria explores the different ways in which we face grief, and that - ultimately - almost everyone experiences it selfishly, and alone. It provokes thoughts about career, ambition, and friendship, and is a mesmerisingly depressing viewing experience (I really do mean that in the best way possible.) With the plot propelling along at a great pace, and beautifully written dialogue, this show is seriously fantastic and creative. I won’t say too much as I want to spoil nothing, but trust me, you'll be surprised. Outhouse Theatre Co is absolutely bringing it - I’m already excited to see John later in the year, and whatever else they go on to do after that. I recommend catching Gloria before it closes.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.