REPLAY, Griffin Theatre Company and Playwriting Australia at the SBW Stables, 7 April-7 May 2016. Photography by Brett Boardman - above: Alfie Gledhill and Jack Finsterer; right: Anthony Gooley
Three brothers, three lives, one death, multiple unreliable memories. In 2011 Phillip Kavanagh’s won the year’s Patrick White Playwrights’ Award and, according to the program note, the script has been worked on since by the playwright and the production’s director Lee Lewis. The play now runs 80 minutes, no interval, and encompasses a world of pain and bewilderment.
History, the past, and memory are endlessly fascinating and slippery. As LP Hartley famously wrote in 1953’s The Go-Between, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” And that’s true for John (Alfie Gledhill), Michael (Jack Finsterer) and Peter (Anthony Gooley).
A tragic accident alters the course of their lives: one of the brothers is killed when a laddish dare goes wrong. The youngest, John, suppresses that memory – he’s already been tutored in forgetting by the other two after they force him into an escapade that results in a broken arm. Or does it?
Was his arm in plaster or a sling? Did John actually witness the fall or is the vivid incident a product of his imagination, or what he’s been told? Few among us wouldn’t recognise what happens as time and memory fold in, one on the other, both confusing and clarifying, honest and untrue.
Kavanagh’s script is at once ethereal and tough – as delicate in its observations of boys’ foibles as it is flinty in understanding where that can lead. Lee Lewis is similarly light-handed in guiding the three actors through what, in lesser hands, could become a minefield of emotional missteps.
Newcomer to the adult main stage Alfie Gledhill is a revelation as the baby brother and he’s in great company. Jack Finsterer makes a welcome return to the stage in a portrayal of great charm and intelligence as the elder brother. And Anthony Gooley is fine as the one whose distress bubbles just beneath the surface. And they seemingly effortlessly achieve the difficult plasticity that spans adult and child, past and present.
The creative team is equally skilled in realising the boys’ tenuous reality: designer Tobhiyah Stone Feller, lighting designer Benjamin Brockman and composer and sound designer Daryl Wallis. All in all, Replay is a fascinating portrayal of that fragile and deceptive fraud: memory. Recommended.