RIGHT NOW - MELBOURNE
RIGHT NOW, at Red Stitch, Melbourne, 17 April-20 May 2018. Photography by Jodie Hutchinson
Right Now, by Quebec playwright Catherine-Anne Toupin (translated by Chris Campbell) is a play that keeps you guessing, in the vein of Father and to me, reminiscent of some of Elena Ferrante’s early works. They have you cringing, laughing and aghast at what is being played out, how the mind plays tricks.
A young couple, Alice (Christina O’Neill) and Ben (Dushan Phillips) settling into a new flat, are befriended by their neighbours, Gilles (Joe Petruzzi) Juliette (Olga Makeeva) and their son Francois (Mark Wilson). All seems pretty normal, on the surface.
Ben is an overworked doctor who works late and Alice is home alone dealing with the loss of a child, still hearing the crying. Or is it post-natal depression? And this is where the play gets really interesting: how the brain works after or during trauma.
The neighbours appear to be all “hail fellow well met” and are constantly around. Francois a man/child, hilariously dressed in shorts and all gums and smiles. He’s gauche, trying to fit it in as the son who is not the apple of his mother’s eye; perhaps it would have been better if he had died – and not his brother.
The audience can’t help but get caught up in the richness and comedy of the mayhem: Juliette coddling Ben and Alice having sexual fantasies with and about Gilles. It is a melting pot of desire, needs and wants that gets so jumbled that their lives become intertwined. Then the neighbours leave… Ben leaves, Francois stays or is it the other way around. The baby cries, or does it?
This type of writing requires strong direction and Katy Maudlin has done just that in this Australian premiere production. In the beginning it is quite photographic, the way she groups the actors and allows the audience time for guessing. The sound design by Daniel Nixon well and truly sets the scene beginning as we entered the theatre with “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” and “Please Release Me Let Me Go”; then with more sinister sounds as the play progresses. The set and costume design by Emily Barrie help transform the small space into a smart flat for smart people, appositely lit by Richard Vabre.
Mark Wilson as Francois is a stand out, he’s unsettling and his transformation works well. O’Neill and Phillips as the traumatised young couple are also believable. It may have been nerves or laughter coming in places they weren’t used to, but I felt they were vocally a bit soft in the beginning; they got stronger as the play went on. As the weird neighbours, Makeeva delights and Petruzzi, also a bit down on opening night, was pompous enough. I am sure as they settle into the run they will hit their straps – you can’t keep good actors down for long.
Definitely worth seeing.