Written by Joanna Murray-Smith
Directed by Jordan Best
The Courtyard, Canberra Theatre Centre to 14 July
Reviewed by Len Power 4 July 2018
In ‘Switzerland’, Edward Ridgeway travels from a New York publishing house to Switzerland to convince author, Patricia Highsmith, to sign a contract to write a new novel. She’s feisty, difficult and unwelcoming. He’s charming, unfazed by her aggression and starts to gain her grudging respect. That’s just the start of this tricky, playful and ultimately very enjoyable play.
As the novelist, Patricia Highsmith, Karen Vickery gives a powerful, multi-layered performance. Is Highsmith really the tough character she displays from the beginning or is she just posing for effect because of her bitterness at the world in general? She’s intriguing, witty, nasty, confronting, fascinating and with just a hint of vulnerability. By the time she states, ‘I’m not ignorant, I’m just mean’, we’re hooked and hoping for more clues to her true character. The skill that Karen Vickery brings to her performance of this fascinating woman is awesome.
Playing Edward Ridgeway, Lachlan Ruffy is in full command of this more straight-forward character. Likeable from the start, we’re impressed by his coolness and ability to field the most appalling insults from Highsmith. He’s the type of guy who would easily gain your trust but when Highsmith suddenly breaks through his charm with a question about his sexual preferences, his reaction pulls the rug out from under us. Ruffy shows his impressive strength as an actor by making this perilously dangerous moment, and what comes after it, quite believable.
|Karen Vickery and Lachlan Ruffy|
Joanna Murray-Smith has written a tantalising and deceptive play hinting at themes and ideas from Patricia Highsmith’s novels. When you find out where it’s all going, you’ll be amused and impressed by the playfulness and stunned by her cleverness.
Director, Jordan Best, has produced a believable and well-paced production, bringing out the best in her two highly capable actors. There is a nicely detailed set by Michael Sparks, subtle lighting by Cynthia Jolley Rogers and suitably brooding music by Matthew Webster.
I’ve heard that the season is virtually sold out. I’m sure that Patricia Highsmith would be delighted to hear you had to resort to murder to get a ticket to this terrific play.
Photos by David James McCarthy
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast in his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.