Dead Centre/ Sea Wall – Emotional engagement at The Old Fitz. (Theatre Review)
Dead Centre/Sea Wall
Red Stich Actors Theatre and Red Line Productions
Image credits Jodie Hutchinson
First things first – it was wonderful to see such a rich, successful female performance at The Old Fitz. It’s great to see such a thing anywhere, but Red Line Productions were in dire need of what Rosie Lockhart brings to their main stage and she delivered in spades! Realism is not something I warm to, particularly in theatre, but Lockhart’s performance was so rich and fulfiling, I was even willing to overlook the monologue format and relax into her striking performance. When the script felt manipulative and pandering, she controled it back into the intimate space, while equally maintaing the distance and perspective of the other. It is a very intelligent performance, and one that I am very pleased for Red Line is happening on their stage.
Dead Centre and Sea Wall are companion pieces written by Tom Holloway and Simon Stephens, although this isn’t a production you go to see for the writing. I’m not great with that “tug at the heart strings” stuff as I always feel manipulated, and both these scripts appeal to a passivity in us that evoked the cinematic expereince for me – which is interesting in itself. This is theatre that wants you to feel, not think, that is refusing it’s place in literary history. That’s fine of course, because I am well aware mine is a minorities position and we should all be allowed to go to lots of different types of theatre. I am also well fed and nurtured by the Sydney scene, so I am content to find enjoyment in this style of theatre from time to time. I’m a little dissapointed that Simon Stephens, one of the in-yer-face generation evoked such audience passivity in his writing, but the play is deeply loved by a lot of people, so who am I to judge?
However, beyond all that opinionating, the real reason to see Dead Centre/Sea Wall is for Julian Meyrick’s direction, Katie Cavanagh’s evocative video projections, Ian Moorehead’s sound and Matthew Adey’s delicate, structed lighting. The stage is split by a fine, firm mesh screen that slices the monolgues from the other performer, firmly splicing them into the background vision of the centre stage action. The arresting images projected onto this screen that both reflects and disfusses them by Katie Cavanagh is so delicately wrought that the oppressive weight of feeling is given its own filter through a strange kind of three dimensional passageway. It’s so helpful when we do feel as if we are drowing in the ocean of feeling. Meyrick keeps each monologue, Dead Centre performed by Rosie Lockhart and Sea Wall performed by Ben Pendergast in front of the divide, while behind it the other performer enacts slight movements that compliment the dialogue. This allows each monologue to be interwoven with the other, almost as if they were intentionally companion pieces. This is nuanced, immaculately timed direction that exhibits great control over each of the two texts.
As I said above, Rosie Lockhart is sensational in her role. Ben Pendergast doesn’t exhibt quite the same connection with his character, but it’s still a worthy performance that perfectly captures the intentions of the text. The pairing and the style of performance is fresh and interesting on the Old Fitz Stage and very good for those who like their theatre to be realist, immersed in a community context and referencing immediate, identifyable expereinces.