By Rosie Niven
Gregor and Sofie are unhappily married, but when their cat Wink goes missing, things go from bad to worse. What could be worse for Sofie than a missing cat? Her husband skinning it alive and burying it in the backyard.
Jen Silverman’s works are the talk of the town in the United States, and slowly the Sydney theatre community is catching on to just how good these quirky scripts are. Opening just weeks after the World Premiere in California, Wheels & Co. Productions have brought this surreal work about a couple and their cat to Australian stages at Kings Cross Theatre.
Eloise Snape is engaging as Sofie, a housewife whose disillusionment with life leads her to make up an attack by a mysterious terrorist called Roland. She has a clear understanding of the text and her performance teeters between naturalistic and pure chaos. Graeme McRae’s Gregor is strong, but feels underplayed for the wild nature of the script. Matthew Cheetham’s Dr Frans and Sam O’Sullivan’s Wink bounce chaotically off each other, resulting in fantastic moments of tension where Frans pushes back against every one of his instincts at Wink’s command. Their taboo relationship is electric, and O’Sullivan delivers a delicious amount of charm in his portrayal of a dead house cat.
What fails to go hand in hand is Anthony Skuse’s directing and the surreal nature of the play: his gentle approach to storytelling butts heads with the most chaotic moments in the play and we are left without any sort of climax in the show. Just as moments begin to peak, the are drawn back down again to an unsatisfying end. It feels as if Silverman’s work has been put inside a clear jar, letting us see what’s inside but never allowing the content to spill out and speak for itself. It’s not that we’re not invested in the characters, because we are: we want to know more about Gregor’s lust for violence and the urge to take a life, Sofie’s obsession with a fake terrorist invader named Roland, Frans’ sexual awakening with Wink, and Wink’s plan to exact revenge on the man who buried him in the garden. But all of these wants are left unmet, with an ending that feels unfinished and anticlimactic.
The strengths of Wink are in the design, with Ben Pierpoint’s sound and Phoebe Pilcher’s lights creating an eerie atmosphere that puts the audience on the edge of their seats. It’s the sort of design that suggests something isn’t right, that highlights the breakdowns of the characters and pushes this production beyond its naturalistic base. It is here that Silverman’s most chaotic elements are honoured.
Jen Silverman’s Wink is a work that shows us the weirdest and least desirable parts of humanity, when our instinct for harm and lies and revenge come to the forefront. While many elements of this production seemed to come with an understanding of the text, I felt a true appreciation of the surreal style the text expects was missing, and what was left was a lot of questions, and a desire for something a little more.
Photo Credit: Robert Catto
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.