Thursday, 12 June 2014

Coincidences at the End of Time - Second Chance Theatre (12 June 2014)

The apocalypse is upon us my friends! Meteors plummet into populated areas. Giant crocodiles that may (or may not) be Godzilla that may (or may not) be the American or Japanese version that may (or may not) breathe fire are on the rampage. Bodies litter the streets.

Relief is at hand for Peter who has found refuge in a quiet café at the end of the world. It’s not quite the Restaurant at the End of the Universe but it certainly is a welcome respite from ‘out there’... until a blood spattered woman, Rachel, enters… who happens to be Peter’s ex. Not just any ex as we’re about to find out but what could be best described as ‘The One’ as he is for her.

The night time temperatures may have been plummeting in Perth but that’s nothing to the frosty reception these two initially give each other. But time is running out and what else is there to do but talk about the past, both good and bad, and re-examine two lives once so intimately entwined?

Writer Scott McArdle (who plays Peter) isn’t so much interested in the apocalypse other than to use the concept of the world ending as a context to explore these two people and their relationship over the course of a lifetime. There is no future for this couple but this also gives them the freedom to share experiences and memories; some for the first time, some joyful, some painful, some full of doubt, regrets and even perceived betrayal.

In effect, we witness a series of flashbacks – ‘landmarks’ in their journey together. The conceit here is that they choose what ‘scenes’ to reenact - the first meeting, moving in together, work issues, significant highlights but also notable lowlights that point to the antagonism portrayed in the present. Revelations are disclosed towards the end that lends further poignancy.

McArdle is good as the rumpled, fatalistic Peter but it’s Emily David as Rachel who really shines in a nuanced performance – angry, loving, playful, morose – her character is the one who thought she might live forever yet discovers ‘forever’ has a used by date. The sequence where she is alone on stage including holding an ‘imaginary breakfast’ with Peter is very well performed.

The transitions between the present and the flashback scenes are aided with minimal costume adjustments, lighting (essentially naked light bulbs) and original music composed by Drew Krapljanov who is putting together an impressive list of scores including The Pillowman earlier in the year and SCT’s very own Bye. Gone. It’s the acting, however, that clearly delineates the various timeframes as mood changes are beautifully conveyed.

The dialogue is very strong and everything is paid off nicely – from the reprising of lines (no, I’m not mumbling) to the reward of earlier set-ups as we discover what happened after they split up and, perhaps more importantly, what they hoped might have happened. Scott and Emily have good chemistry together, essential as there is real closeness in the physical nature of their early flashback scenes. There is a wry sense of humour throughout.

The only query I had is when other characters are portrayed – a Doctor and Rachel’s mother. The conversation between the Doctor and Rachel signifies a substantial change in POV for the first time (in that it’s not a shared recollection between Peter and Rachel); the latter is almost a Python-esque style sketch that was tonally jarring.

This is an intimate examination of a couple so the choice of venue, an actual café in Fremantle, adds to the ambience. Seating only thirty I was a mere metre away from the action in the front row. There was no place for either actor to hide and they did a wonderful job.

Written by Scott McArdle and co-directed by Scott and Emily David, Coincidences at the End of Time is being staged once a month at the Moore & Moore café in Fremantle until September. Next performance is 10 July at 7pm and the play runs for approximately 45 minutes. 

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