Review By Abbie Gallagher
As the house lights came up, my companion turned to me and said, “I know you enjoyed that, because you didn’t write a lot of notes,”
She was 100% right. To take my eyes off what was happening on stage felt disrespectful in a way, because what director Hayden Tonazzi created at the Old 505 as part of the Freshworks program is truly beautiful.
This Genuine Moment, or how I learned to stop loving myself and lie takes place in the bedroom of R, who’s woken up next to L, an apparent one night stand after a chance encounter at a gay club. L (Jackson Blair-West) is cocky, confident, not above lying and revels in the awkwardness of the situation. R (Tom Hughes) is insecure and conflicted, not less because he plans to come out to his family that night, which happens to be Christmas Eve. What follows is a funny, touching and ultimately heartbreaking conversation. In between texting, Google and the Wifi password, these two strangers piece together what led them to this moment, and in the process reveal more than just their names. It’s incredibly sweet, delightfully uncomfortable and beautifully vulnerable drama.
Both actors deliver powerhouse performances under breathtakingly honest direction. Jackson Blair-West has a roguish charm and instant likeability which masks a lifetime of pain. Tom Hughes starts as a somewhat erratic and nervous young man but as the play progresses he is ultimately able to draw on a deep core of strength, juxtaposing where both characters started.
The action onstage moves swiftly from silent humour firmly planted in reality to profound twists, always feeling natural. The vulnerability of the situation was further heightened by designer Kate Beere’s choice to keep the actors in their underwear for most of the running time.
The laughter comes thick and fast from the dialogue, movement and the well-timed video from Aaron Murray. Of course, this is all possible from the excellent writing by Jacob Parker, who is definitely one to keep an eye on. This is also Hayden Tonazzi’s first go directing original work (aided by assistant director Margaret Thanos), and fresh out of NIDA’s directing course. He’s another name to tuck away, because with his immense talent and obvious passion he is definitely going places. The industry is in good hands if these two fine artists are out there creating.
If I had to criticise anything it would be the size of the set. This is the pettiest gripe I’ve ever written in a review, but it was something that I heard a couple of people mention in the foyer afterwards and I had to agree. The floor around the bed was quite tiny and made for a couple of moments where the actors seemed a bit restricted.
One of the most common complaints about today’s world is the increasing social isolation and how there’s no honest communication anymore. We’ve all heard it. This play shows the power of real human connection, and proves how desperately needed it is, and how it’s still very much alive in the arts. Indeed, this is the reason art exists. To hold up a mirror to society. To encourage us to rethink our worldview and consider other ideas, other people’s experiences. To expose imperfections and injustices and bring people together. Every single audience member was completely along for the ride on this one, even though we didn’t know the characters’ names for most of the journey. This was one of the most human moments I’ve ever experienced in a theatre, and will very likely have a spot in my top 5 for the year.
It’s theatre like this that makes me glad to be part of the arts community, as a performer and a reviewer. Do yourself a favour and get to the Old 505 immediately.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.