Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thursday by Bryony Lavery

Thursday by Bryony Lavery.  Brink Productions and English Touring Theatre, director/dramaturg: Chris Drummond.  At Canberra Playhouse, March 20-23, 2013.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
March 20

Before seeing this play I chose to avoid reading any details of the story of Dr Gill Hicks who lost both her legs in the London bombing of the train taking her to work in 2005.  I had also missed hearing or seeing interviews she gave, including the one on Enough Rope which stimulated the interest of Chris Drummond and led to the cooperative venture between these two theatre companies, one in Adelaide – Dr Hicks’ home town – and the other in London, where she works.

I did not want to find myself judging how correctly the play told her story.  I was hoping for a play, based upon her story, but standing in its own right as an artistic work.  And, indeed, that’s what I saw tonight.

The structure of the work is from the general to the particular, beginning that Thursday with an intriguing picture, almost like a movie where the camera shots from many different locations can be juxtaposed to make a montage in motion of the lives of the people and their partners who, by chance, became placed on that train jam-packed next to the suicide bomber.

After the explosion, which was imaginatively – and very effectively – represented in movement and light rather than excessive sound, the work draws in bit by bit to focus on Rose, based on Dr Hicks, played by Kate Mulvaney, until she walks again in the company of all those who have given so much of themselves to help another human being.

As a work of art, it was the originality of the staging, the characterisations and especially the use of heightened language which made the play work for me.  The approach to presenting what could have been a purely melodramatic plot – however true to actual events – was like using lights from oblique and unexpected angles, rather than obvious spotlighting.  The language, and a figure representing Death working to persuade Rose to depart with him, kept our conventional reactions at bay, just enough to see and feel in response, yet not to be overwhelmed by emotion.

To achieve this, Laverty writes “If I had the choice, I would always make a play in the Brink way....I always felt Chris [Drummond] and I were making it together.”  She makes it clear that “We were turning fact into fiction and those two states are empirically different....  One is random, the other is constructed.”

Yet the art is that the constructed fiction tells us so much more about the nature of the real experience than any news report.  And the artistry of all the actors met the demands of the writing.  The result was demanding but exhilarating theatre, a great confirmation of Dr Gill Hicks’ words: My hope is that Thursday will make us more conscious of the everyday and the intricacy of our interconnected relationships, whether that be with those we know and love, or with strangers.

Not to be missed.