Review by James Mukheibir
Grand Horizons, presented by Sydney Theatre Company, is a fascinating dive into family dynamics and society-wide ageism through a strong ensemble performance and impressive design. It is a dark comedy, using humor to cut through the awkward and difficult marital breakdown as it is navigated by an elderly couple and their adult children. Linda Cropper’s performance as Nancy is excellent as she perfectly captures the exhaustion of motherhood and feminine social pressure in later life.
There is a catharsis to the story, as characters demand to be seen, heard and respected. Grand Horizons unpacks the phenomenon of invisible woman syndrome and this is the most interesting aspect of the show. Our society has a chronic habit of ignoring women once they cross the threshold of middle-age, and Grand Horizons demonstrates that this can be exacerbated amongst those closest to the women in question. Taken for granted, ignored or replaced with a new model are presented as the only options. Surrounded by her stubborn and self-centered family that desperately try to cling to the subservient and amiable presence that has facilitated their lives for so long, Nancy takes option four: spectacularly blow it all up in the hope of finding life’s meaning elsewhere. It was beautiful to watch an older woman take center stage and demand her needs be met, and this breath of fresh air was followed by some excellent directorial moments from Jessica Arthur where the entire family takes the time to recognise how much they need her. Nancy’s selfless dedication to the people she loves is wonderfully expressed through a long and silent sequence of her meticulously making a sandwich for her husband.
The conversation between Nancy and Carla (Vanessa Dowling) was an absolute highlight, as the two older women bond over trying to fit in with a society that has commodified and now discarded them. It is a freeing moment for character and audience alike, and a wonderful moment of sex positivity for a generation that has always had trouble feeling comfortable in that space. Vanessa Downing and Linda Cropper have wonderful chemistry and there is power in two women sitting together with agency, speaking candidly about what it means to exist.
The design of the show was impeccable, with subtle but nuanced costuming and a set that transformed Roslyn Packer stage into a house that would sell for many millions in Walsh Bay. While strong in parts, the writing was occasionally dated, with some of the characters failing to deliver more than a caricature, which was often a step in the wrong direction for the social commentary it was trying to portray and failed to present the depth of each character. That said, each character was given a strong performance by the ensemble cast of exciting upcoming actors and Australian theatre royalty.
Grand Horizons tells the story of gray invisibility, lost love and suffocating pressure of regret, with an ample sprinkling of humor and silliness to carry any audience through with a smile on their face. Catch it at the Roslyn Packer Theatre until March 5 2022.