Review by Michelle Sutton
The Twins is a dream project and labour of love for Ian Darling and Greg Fleet. They play themselves in the show and reflect on their friendship that has ebbed and flowed for over four decades. Through the course of the play they sit in a rehearsal room and chat about white privilege, drug overdoses, telling your dad you love him, showing up as a parent and having the soul of an artist and the courage to follow your passions.
Sarah Butler had a hand in writing the script with Ian and Greg, as well as directing their performances. Due to the challenges that covid-19 and border restrictions provided in 2020, Terry Serio was invited onboard as co-director when Sarah could not travel interstate to rehearsals. The stage is set up to represent a simple rehearsal space with a table, a few chairs and stools and two water bottles.
Greg and Ian attended high school together, where they were a mesmerising double act starring in all the drama departments productions. After graduation Greg got into NIDA, got kicked out of NIDA and then went on to have a career as a comedian and actor. Ian got a business degree and worked as a stockbroker before deciding to become a filmmaker as he was nearing forty years old. Greg has dealt with drug addiction and had a life of ups and downs whereas on the surface Ian seems to have it all together with a nuclear family, holiday house and multiple accolades including an Order of Australia. The 82-minute two-hander sees them unravel the assumptions they have made about each other and explores nostalgia, regrets, mistakes and fears.
In the play as well as in real life, Ian Darling has not acted in forty years. His vulnerability and risk-taking in stepping back on stage is touching and his performance is genuine and lovely. The context of the play is that Ian has decided that Greg and himself should put on a production of The Comedy of Errors, a Shakespeare classic that they first starred in back at school. Greg Fleet is sarcastic, dry and hilarious but also gets the chance to showcase his range as an actor.
The Twins allows Greg and Ian to look back on their private boarding school experience and identify the ways that their privilege provided them with opportunities that others never had. At one point Greg muses on the corruption of the court system, the sexism and racism that it upholds in its decisions and admits that he his benefits from this bias and grapples with what that has meant for his life. Ian wonders if people will ever see him for the films he has made, rather than writing off his talent and hard work due to his wealthy family. These are understandable reflections, however may seem a tad self-indulgent or obvious to those who are not privileged men. In my opinion as someone who probably doesn’t fall into the intended audience demographic, the most touching moments of the show are when Greg and Ian focus closer to home on their personal relationships. They talk about their relationships with their dads, and how that has affected them as parents. Ian reflects on not being able to stand up to his father and share his true feelings with him while he was alive. They struggle with trusting each other and examine the ways their friendship has changed.
I did not realise while I was watching the show that the play was written about the actors themselves and the achievements and failures of their real lives. When I flipped through the program post-show and realised this, I had a new admiration for their honesty and bravery and could appreciate the natural chemistry they shared onstage as lifelong friends.
I think any play which includes two men talking honestly about their feelings, insecurities, hopes and dreams is a wonderful contribution to Australian culture, where the ideals of toxic masculinity continue to uphold the patriarchy and cause damage to men’s mental health and interpersonal relationships. I do think that if there was more of a plot the realisations and learnings of Greg and Ian could have been more stirring. Instead of them just sitting on stools at a table making statements about understanding their privilege, they could have more powerfully demonstrated it through actions. At the end of the day, it is a play about old white men probably best enjoyed by old white men, but I mean that in the genuine sense that I feel it would hold up a mirror to them in a non-judgemental way and perhaps help some men to begin unravelling the labels that have been placed on them and the assumptions they have made of others. Looking beyond labels and having empathy for others is the main takeaway from The Twins.