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Review: Significant Other at New Theatre

Review By Laura Heuston

It’s not often that I find myself so enamoured with a show that I forget to take notes when reviewing, but you’ll find no scrawled comments in my notebook for Significant Other. From the set, to the script, to the wonderful performances, this show is absolutely beautiful.

Jordan (Tom Rodgers) is our neurotic protagonist, who is lucky in friends but not in love. His three gal pals Kiki (Isabella Williams), Vanessa (Dominique Purdue) and Laura (Laura McInnes) are all in the process of getting boyfriends, then husbands, then in Kiki’s case, children. And while Jordan wants all these things, he is 29 and yet to come close. So, while we watch the women blossom in their happiness, Jordan is sent spiralling into existential turmoil at the prospect of a life alone. And while this might sound a touch ridiculous to those who found love later in life, or those who married young, for someone in their 20s and single, there is a distinct note of familiarity in J’s anguish.

Rodgers presents us with a comical yet deeply relatable protagonist, who while being on the obsessive side (and I’m being generous here), gives life to the absurd behaviours so many of us have found ourselves indulging in when we have a crush. Facebook stalking, constantly talking about them, attempting to memorise what you see when they get out of the pool all make an appearance, but the less common, more problematic behaviours are there too. The first object of interest is Will (Matthew McDonald, who plays a series of characters over the course of the show) and he’s gorgeous, but things don’t work out, as seems to be the pattern with Jordan. And due to his obsessiveness, that hits him harder than others. Rodgers takes us through this pain genuinely, without mocking Jordan, but all the while managing to be incredibly funny. And the jokes are crucial because the fear is great. Director Hayden Tonazzi never allows us to fall completely into despair however, and that is a tremendous aspect of what makes this show so enthralling.

I must also give huge props to scriptwriter Joshua Harmon, who has captured exactly how so many queer people talk to each other, without ever roaming into the over-the-top campness that is often dumped onto gay men. Tonazzi and Rodgers recognised this, and together the three of them have managed to create a realistic and moving protagonist for us all to back. The jokes that punctuate the script reflect the queer zeitgeist, with that tinge of existential trauma that could easily be lost if it weren’t for the skill and intelligence of those working on them. The entire show is an illustration of how heteronormativity can absolutely break a queer person, and this idea is not something that can be expressed simply. It is none of the characters’ faults after all, but it still happens.

Finally, I must address the set and music. Our backdrop, designed by Hamish Elliot, is paper sliding doors at various levels and sizes, which, through the magic of Morgan Moroney’s lighting design, take us all over New York and beyond. Having worked in the New many times, I have never seen it’s lighting capabilities used to such marvellous effect. I’ve also never seen such a conceptual set, and it’s fantastic that the space has been utilised in such a fresh manner. And the music? Brilliant. Oliver Beard (Music Supervisor) has taken the few songs that are scripted and extended the musical backdrop to completely immerse us in every aspect of the story. Sound is subtle in this show and used to fantastic effect.

Significant Other is running until June 26. A tremendous congratulations to all involved- I recommend everyone in Sydney attend. Especially if you’re queer, or ever considered the prospect of a life alone. You’ll laugh, you’ll probably cry a little, and you’ll definitely see yourself on this stage.

Image Credit: Bob Seary


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