Review by James Mukheibir
As Lilac opens, you would be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled into one of the many club bathrooms in the near vicinity of Kings Cross Theatre. Coy conversations between courting couples echo off the shining walls and floors while lines of powder are cut up and shared. In this instance however, you would find yourself at a funeral as the plays focal couple meet for the first time, in the ultimate intertwining of beginning and end, birth and death. The journey has only begun, and already it is marked as one imbued with tragedy.
Up-and-coming writer Jackson Used weaves a spiraling exploration of cyclical trauma and the bonds we build to save ourselves. His play does not shy away from the toxicity of broken people and their hate-fueled instinct to break those around them, and his dissection has respect and empathy for the pain that weighs on them, bringing humanity to the sobering reality of the characters.
Jack Angwin and Kate Skinner, under the considered direction of Shane Anthony, are up to the task of bringing these complicated characters to life with poise and care. Their ability to fill the space with joy or crushing grief as they navigate the idyllic highs and crushing lows of their relationship is impressive and allows the audience insight into the poisonous traumas that can overrun relationships and ruin lives. Skinner gives a particularly affecting performance as Diana, giving a window into the devastating reality for so many women in emotionally abusive relationships.
The set design by Adrienne Andrews and lighting design by Saint Clair elevated this examination through the stark, clinical space they created. Bright light exposed every shameful detail of the issues playing out on stage, punctuated by surreal bursts of LED color. This lab-like setting left nowhere for the characters to hide, as their dark secrets were exposed and magnified to be interrogated by the dual banks of eyes silently observing in the intimate KXT space. These lights could have been utilized more to elevate the surreal story and bring color to the occasionally desolate space in the more tender moments, but overall the design did a fantastic job of driving home the themes of the play.
Lilacs traditionally represent purity and innocence, happiness and tranquility, love and passion. These are all ideals that are progressively sullied and destroyed throughout this production, like wilting petals on a once beautiful flower. The team behind Lilac has done a wonderful job of developing this new work with KXT Bakehouse and it is not one to miss.