Our Father who Art (Nearly) in Heaven – Nathan Finger goes Wilde. (Sydney Fringe Festival Theatre Review)
Our Father Who Art (Nearly) In Heaven
Sydney fringe festival at the Seymour Centre
A combination of farce and the whodunnit genres is not normally my favourite cup of theatre tea, yet I confess, after seeing Our father Who Art (Nearly) In Heaven, I’m starting to wonder why that is. This small fringe show is a delightful surprise primarily due to a solid script by Nathan Finger that has a firm understanding of the difficult-to-get-right nuances of farce that place him in the enviable position of being favourably compared to the master of this sort of theatre, Oscar Wilde. However, beyond the weight of such a comparison, Finger is able to make his play au courant with modern caricatures that isolate stereotypes without the casual offence that so many comic writers seem to think they have a right too. He is able to make fun of us, not through our prohibitions, but through our permissions, and that is a key element to the surprising warmth that emerges from the play. This is no mean feat and the result is that truly rare moment in the theatre, when the play keeps surprising you with its wit and warmth such that you find you’re quite moved by the end and disappointed that the experience is over.
Part of the success of this belongs to director Stuart Owen who also gives us the best performance of the night as Ben. The combination of Owen and Finger is a strong one, as each has a feel and passion for the genre that understands the level of skill required. Owen cleverly segments the stage to keep action flowing and he has a strong feel for pace. It works very well with a play that creates a skillful combination of witty one-liners and familiar jokes that appeal to our comfort. Two doors, an exit stage left and right are used to great effect with impeccable timing as the cast shuffle on and off giving the impression of parallel conversations and actions, and the minimal set (swiftly moved about by the very gracious cast – this is fringe after all) is enough to evoke a strong sense of setting and place. Stuart Owen brings his knack for the genre to the role of Ben, and takes great advantage of his characters transformation on stage in a delicate and understated performance that yet shines a bright light. He is posited against Chris Heaslip as Damien, the other brother who strikes an emphatic performance that again, lends itself to warmth as the play progresses. Chris Heaslip’s overextended gesturing and excitability fit well within the bounds of the play and make for very animated viewing that deepens into a delight. Richard Clark performing two roles as the doctor and the butler is another member of the cast who manages to bring a great deal to a relatively small role. The cast is patchy, but as with the all the very best fringe shows, this adds to charm and frivolity rather than grates or annoys.
The play also includes a very funny voice over effect that is skillfully deelivered by performer Douglas Kent.
Our Father Who Art (nearly) In Heaven is a perfect fringe show. It’s light, funny, surprises you with its skill and dedication to excellence and yet rough enough around the edges to keep it all very real. It’s a great night at the theatre, and holds its own very well against a high level of quality emerging in the 2015 Sydney fringe.