Sunday, November 22, 2015

THE CHAIN BRIDGE


Playwright: Tom Davis
Director:  Caroline Stacey
Design:             Imogen Keen
Sound Design: Kimmo Vennonen
Lighting Design: Gillian Schwab

Presented by: The Street
Street Theatre, Canberra until 29th November 2015

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Melbourne playwright, Tom Davis’ compelling play of family excoriation receives an epic production for its premiere season at The Street Theatre.

Though set during a dinner in Richmond in 2010, the action of the play moves swiftly between locations as diverse as a Melbourne tram stop in 1975, a Budapest apartment in 1938, Nazi-occupied Budapest in 1944, Communist Hungary in 1956, a dance hall in Prahran in 1963 and a Richmond lounge-room in 1995. There are scenes in the streets of Budapest during the 1956 Hungarian uprising, on the Chain Bridge of the title.

All these location transitions and time changes are achieved with remarkable clarity and ingenuity under the sure hand of director Caroline Stacey who utilises an extraordinarily flexible set encompassing the whole expanse of the Street Theatre stage, outstanding sound and lighting, and an accomplished cast of just five actors, Geraldine Turner, Peter Cook, Kate Hosking, Zsuzsi Soboslay and PJ Williams, all of whom play multiple characters so convincingly  that the audience is persuaded that it is watching epic scenes with a cast of hundreds as the stories unfold. 

The Chain Bridge
L-R. Kate Hosking, PJ Williams, Zsuzsi Soboslay, Peter Cook, Geraldine Turner
Photo: Lorna Sim

Turner dominates the play in a tour-de force performance as Eva, the mother of Imre (Peter Cook), an academic struggling to write a book about his family’s Budapest history, which he hopes will save both his career and his marriage. However, before the book can be published some inconsistencies between his mother's stories and the history have to be sorted. In a last ditch attempt to establish the truth, and against the wishes of his wife, Sarah, (Kate Hosking), Imre invites his mother, and her two best friends, Katalin and her husband Jozsef, (Zsuzsi Soboslay and PJ William) to dinner with explosive results.

Many of the disclosures are harrowing and the depictions of them distressing. The play provides riveting theatre, but because of the intense demands it makes on the audiences' concentration, it is too long and would benefit from some judicious cutting.  Once it becomes obvious, in the cataclysmic "Fuck History" scene, that Imre’s search for the real truth will never be satisfied, everything that follows feels unnecessary and superflous. 

But see it for yourself.  “The Chain Bridge” is a haunting play, brilliantly staged for this production, with memorable performances from five outstanding actors. It will stay in your mind for months to come.

  

                          This review also appears in Australian Arts Review.

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