Written by Martin Crimp
Directed by Benedict Andrews
Starring: Georgia Bowrey, Anita Hegh, Belinda McClory, Colin Moody and Gigi Perry
Theatre is an age-old art, having sparked imaginations and challenged audience conceptions of the world for longer than can be said. It’s my favourite form of entertainment, and there’s nothing I love more than immersing myself in a play for an evening. The stories told in the theatre are complex and diverse, the stage having kept its relevance by never remaining stagnant.
To this end, it is with some trepidation that I admit that I didn’t fully ‘get’ The City. Benedict Andrews’ production of Martin Crimp’s play is surreal and a little dreamy. It never quite erupts in the way you might expect, always kept a little constrained, as the characters can’t seem to express themselves as fully as they might like. They feel the strain of their simple lives and are superbly acted by the entire ensemble.
But that is most of what I could make sense of in the production. The majority of The City unfolds anecdotally, as each character begins to tell their story from a simple starting point, like “how was your day?” Clair, played by Belinda McClory is a translator of books, who has a yearning for original creativity. Her husband, Christopher (Colin Moody) is insecure and unhappy, about work and much else. They have a daughter, played in alternating performances by Georgia Bowery and Gigi Perry. Their neighbour Jenny (Anita Hegh) is a nurse, with trouble sleeping. Their lives intersect. If that description comes off vague, it is because the play’s story is never fully cohesive. This left me in a small fit of self-admonishment, chiding myself for not totally understanding what I saw. The theme shouldn’t have to be forced down my throat, I thought. And so, because at no point I was fully grasping The City, it did not grasp me. I sat, sadly unengaged and constantly considering if I was simply too dumb today to comprehend what I was seeing.
Still, I must impress that it is not gibberish. The writing is sharp, the acting stellar and the staging more than competent. There are long silences, extreme blackouts and a general static and sterile feel to it all, punctuated by some wonderfully black lines of comedy, delivered with surreal seriousness. But The City is not the sum of its parts, not for me anyway.
None of this should suggest that The City is a poor show. It’s difficult to recommend, certainly, but other theatregoers can potentially see what I don’t, see method in the dreamlike madness. Beauty is after all, just like everywhere else, in the eye of the beholder, and this beholder is sad to have missed it here.
You will love it if: you’re a fan of the surreal and maybe not all there…
You will hate it if: you like your theatre straight-up and action packed!
The City is playing at Sydney Theatre Company, Wharf Theatre until 9th August.
SIDE NOTE: Check out insideourcity.com.au – an interactive image map of Sydneysiders and their impressions on this city.