The audience rippled with trepidation for a minute, when they said this was a lock in. That’s right, my friends, once you are in you must stay in. And if you leave you can not come back. A fitting physical metaphor for the unfurling darkness ahead.
A simple enough concept. The Good Room have made a triptych of shows based on this same idea. Anonymous submissions are requested, and this material forms the basis of a script, a play woven out of true stories. For this piece, submissions were solicited on the topic of forgiveness and regret.
And out of such a small idea comes a voluminous, meaty performance, laden with murderous intent.
Caroline Dunphy is a total dream. This is the second show I have seen featuring her in as many months. She is so bloody good, that by default I knew the other performers would also be good; a kind of proxy vote, knowing she is top notch quality. And I was right. Amy Ingram, Thomas Larkin, and Michael Tuahine complete the quartet; a fully committed, capable and talented cast who took some very dangerous material and warped it into a dark and toothsome script, full of woe and brilliant, tremulous human emotion.
There was an incongruous dance scene by a supporting stagehand ensemble which was fun enough in its own way, but a little bemusing. Perhaps its purpose was to lull us into a false sense of security.
The lighting was bloody good. A bespoke lighting rig was arranged in such a way that lights could be used to great effect from virtually any direction. Very talented design by Jason Glenwright.
The sound was huge, brutal, encompassing. As much as I hate the trend for the word, it was utterly immersive. I was sitting bolt upright on my chair from about 4 minutes into the show. I don’t know if I cried. I don’t think so. But I was very worried, a deep sense of foreboding.
This is not a happy-go-lucky kind of story. It takes a true story, one from recent history, and binds it all around with the stories they were given. A brief conversation with co-creator Daniel Evans after the show, revealed that there was even more material that was too risky, too dangerous, too difficult to unpack in a show. And the material they use is full of… heavy hearts, and shoulders curved with the weight of too many years passed and still the waters do not cede. This content is treated with reverence, but also with gusto, and with punch.
A scene of literal ultraviolence sees the actors physicalise the loathing, the anger. Ah so much anger. Fast and ferocious, then slow and tender, at times roughly carved into a slowdance of beauty. It made me wonder if it broke their hearts to read the letters they had asked for?
And that is the key. When using material that is offered to you in good faith, deeply personal revelations, it is almost sacrosanct; anonymous or not, there is a pact that is entered into with each submission that must be honoured. I wonder if many of the authors attended, waiting to hear if their tale made it onto the stage. If their confession would finally be paraded in the limelight for all to see. Perhaps they came to see if they would be offered absolution.
I wonder if an innocent person would be as deeply moved, as nervously uncomfortable, as the faces of the onlookers I saw reflected in the stagelight.
These relevations make me wonder if there is even such a thing as an innocent person.
Tales of woe, tales of anger, tales of regret, and despite the liner notes, very, very few tales of forgiveness. It is fascinating, that given the opportunity, so many people took the reins and ran with that horse, belching out their darkest secrets, the things you do not tell your mother, your husband, or even your oldest childhood friend. These are the tales that are reserved for thine heart only.
“After all that happened I am at odds with God.”
I have come away with my heart aching for the strangers whose stories crossed the stage. If there is a take-home message, and I don’t know that this was their intention, but I have come away determined to be a little more forgiving. To find some forgiveness when it seems so many of us do not.
Forgiveness for the ex-lovers, the family feuds, the frenemies and tangled colleagues. And I want to be a lot more gentle with myself.
I just came to say goodbye is showing at Theatre Republic until the 23rd September 2017
Image credit | Dylan Evans
Created by Lauren Clelland, Caroline Dunphy, Daniel Evans, Amy Ingram, Kieran Swann
Director| Daniel Evans
Producer/Designer| Kieran Swann
Lighting Design| Jason Glenwright
Composer/Sound Design| Dane Alexander
Choreographer| Nerida Matthaei
Fight Choreographer| Justin Palazzo-Orr
Performers| Caroline Dunphy, Amy Ingram, Thomas Larkin, Michael Tuahine
Stagehand/Ensemble| Bryce Bofinger, Alice England, Trent Geary, Bek Groves, Phoebe Hilton, Madeleine McMahon, Jaya Fisher-Smith, Mercedes Woodrow.
Stage Manager| Jeremy Gordon
Assistant Stage Manager| Teegan Kranenburg
Costume Coordinator| Madeline Taylor
Sound Intern| Michael Cullen
Production Intern| Riette de Jager