Review by Olivia Ruggiero
The Park by Simon Thompson is an intriguing piece of theatre that struggles to find its genre.
The play surrounds the lives of 6 people, a double murder that happens in a park, and the inter-connectedness of their relationships. Upon reading that, it must seem like the play would be a contemporary Australian crime drama/murder mystery but instead it darts in and out of fantasy, the absurd, real and gritty contemporary Australian drama and at times comedy.
Under the banner of the Sydney Festival and given the reputation of the New Theatre this show was expected to be good. Despite the fact it is a new work, given the standards of new independent works that have premiered in the last 12 months, this work showed great promise. However, on this occasion the work fell short of what was expected.
Ben Dewstow is a stand-out amongst the cast. His energy, commitment and intention behind every line brings great life to every character he plays. It feels as if his character’s all have a backstory. Dewstow makes bold choices, and they pay off. His daring follow through on every action is exciting to watch. Orlando Norman and Priyanka Karunanithi both show great promise. Norman and Karunanithi make some riveting choices that see them excel as their characters and at other times their inexperience shows. Diction and vocal projection were lacking across the cast, which is never a good sign in a space as intimate as the New Theatre, but perhaps as their season continues they will grow more comfortable in the space.
The lighting design is simple and yet excellent. It would have, of course, been more effective if the actors had had the rehearsal time necessary to stay in their light for the duration of their scenes/interactions. Perhaps with further tech time and more rehearsal in the space the actors would grow more comfortable with the lighting design and it’s parameters.
There are some big, revolutionary moments in the script, moments that should earn gasps, tears and shocked silences but the lack of character development does not warrant that from the audience. There is a lack of sympathy felt towards the cast, when their big moments come, it’s as though they haven’t earned it yet, we don’t understand them, and their psychology hasn’t been developed enough. The chemistry between cast members is lacking, this does not aid in the audience’s desire to connect with the characters and their plights.
The set design is simple and feels awkward. There are only a few set changes, but they are clunky and either under rehearsed or they need to add something into them to add to continuity of the piece. The blocking seems amateur, and the actors don’t seem to make definite, complex, well-thought choices like the should. The direction has great vision, but it’s poorly executed.
The play as a whole needs more time to develop, the script needs to be worked, perhaps fleshed out so that the actors can really sink their teeth into something meaty, giving clearly talented performers the best chance to really shine. It needs to find its genre, and if it’s going to be mix of genres, be clear and definitive in that choice from the outset. Overall, the production and direction need to work together more closely to create a cohesive piece of theatre. The play potentially has a fantastic future, if it can overcome some of its current obstacles.