Theatre: Saturn’s Return


Written by Tommy Murphy

Directed by David Berthold

Starring: Leeanna Walsman, Toby Moore and Matt Zeremes.

Leeanna Walsman is a goddess. This woman owns the stage. Forget her humble beginnings (Looking for Alibrandi), she is a firecracker, all smoke and sparks and ready to ignite anything that she touches. Saturn’s Return is her tour de force, strongest when she is front and centre and loosing all momentum in the brief moments when she is not commanding the space. Working with Tommy Murphy’s reworked script (originally premiered as part of the 2008 Wharf2Loud season and reworked during Murphy’s ensuing stint in Europe), Saturn’s Return tackles the increasingly blurred line between youthful abandon and the responsibilities of age, as Walsman’s Zara is plunged headfirst into her own emotional upheaval, her own Saturn Return.

This production by David Berthold (who also helmed Murphy’s Strangers In Between and Holding The Man) is a tense affair, all snappy dialogue and pithy black humor. It is also incredibly upfront in its sexuality- the play opening with Zara quizzing her boyfriend Matt (Toby Moore) about the possibility of having another threesome – “without pills this time…. They’re for kids. Grow up.” It’s Gen X and Y under the microscope and this honesty and transparency is both confronting yet surprisingly affirming. The play takes the shape of a series of increasingly loosely connected vignettes, small fragments of life writ large across the stage. Rounding out the cast is the solid Matt Zeremes who plays a series of character including Brendan, Zara’s old school friend who is eventually approached to be included in this threesome but whose appearance sets in play a trans-dimensional fissure that sucks everything into its wake.

It’s a generally solid affair but there are a few weaknesses, with the play promising so much but ultimately leaving you feeling that the sum of all its parts has not really added up to achieve the kind of emotional catharsis that Murphy’s work is noted for. Some of this fault lies in Adam Gardnir’s set design, which whilst playing nicely (although almost to obtusely) with the plays cyclical theme, is never as inventive or effective as it hopes to be. Some fault also lies in the text itself, which seems almost like a big box being slowly opened before us, but stops short of fully unfurling, and leaves you desperately wanting to know what truths are hiding inside. This is a little baffling considering the play has already undergone so much transformation and change but perhaps it does warrant some more careful unpacking.

This aside, Saturn’s Return is an intriguing and beguiling outing by some of the Australia’s most exciting talent. It’s the kind of play that lingers. In it are elements of all our hopes and fears and a persistent sense of postmillennial paranoia, of a waiting and preparing for the worst, even though this fear is ultimately not of the unknown but of something buried deep within ourselves.

You will love this if: you’re ever felt the universe was conspiring against you.

You will hate this if: you’re a conservative, liberal voter the better side of sixty.

Saturn’s Return is now playing at STC Wharf 2 (Hickson Road, The Rocks) until the 30th of August.

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