The Divorce Party – Morals, Economics and Marraige. (Theatre Review)

The Divorce Party

505 Theatre Fresh Works and Life After Productions

12 – 16 March You can Grab your tickets here.

In The Divorce Party, Liz Hobart examines issues of morality and how they relate to economic structure. Cleverly couched around that most ancient economic symbol – the marriage (and in this case an amicable divorce) – Liz Hobart examines four characters and their moral imperatives as they are played out in the lives of a couple enjoying a very modern phenomenon, the divorce party. If marriage is an action resulting in the joining of resources, then it is moral to use the divorce to redistribute resources accumulated in the marriage. However, Liz Hobart implies the couple may also sense a moral obligation to their community (or at least to the folk who brought all those gifts) in a redistribution that includes those around them. Is it a modern attempt at equitable distribution? The Divorce Party’s narrative twist gives us a sense of how Liz Hobart feels about this as an idea, but it remains a fascinating subject to be explored through which her witty writing provides full access.

Annette (Meg Clarke), Gene (Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn), Dora (Ariadne Sgouros) and Frank (Alexander Stylianou) have very personal reasons to be at this particular divorce party. For each of them, in some way, their attendance is both moral and economic. As they speak, bicker and associate, a moral position of some sort will emerge tangled with an economic imperative. For Liz Hobart, she examines the idea Marx put forward that all economic struggles invite moral struggles or masquerade as such. But she searches for its reverse; that deep moral conflicts may be waged through the manipulation of economic resources particularly in connection to policy formation and philanthropy. Inside this disarmingly simple play, Liz Hobart calls forth the unfaced problems associated with moral judgements inside the economy that have the potential to be disruptive (and even explosive) when synthesized with individual lives. All Liz Hobart’s characters have moral problems with economics at their core. Or, they economic problems with morality at the core?

If the recent plebiscite on gay marriage illuminated anything, it revealed marriage is an economic arrangement that should be built on a foundation of love. The alarming antagonistic swell the LGBTIQ community experienced during the lead up to the plebiscite taught us, that marriage is far more about money than it is about love. No one minds if gay people love each other – its taking part in joint economic rights that scares straight people. As competitive individualism takes over societies reconstruct themselves in the image of the marketplace.  For Liz Hobart, the cultural shift is self evident but it also has a deep impact upon individuals and democratic consensus. Individual moral and political need drives her protagonists and society, steeped in its marketplace mirror, uses these flimsy moral positions to strengthen and capitalist ideologies.

The Divorce Party is a delightfully written play by Liz Hobart and an excellent submission to the Fresh Works program at 505 Theatre by Life After Productions. This is a clever little production sitting on an excellent set designed by Damien Egan, that surprises with its style and detail. Alexander Lee-Rekers directs a fast paced, entertaining show equally doing a wonderful job with naturalistic sounds that add to the suburban restaurant aesthetic. His directorial style is similar to his sound work; naturalistic, light and determined by overall mood. Constantly seeking a strong immersion in surroundings, he directs his cast toward their revelations in a gradual muted style that calls forth innate performances. Sophie Pekbilimli does an emblematic lighting design that equally fits in with the realism, and Jana Vass pulls it together with seamless stage management and tech. Overall well produced by company co-director Jordan Shea, this production is clearly the result of young artists seeking to make a strong name for their production company via a perpetual raising of the bar on their standards.

Casting is equally strong. Alexander Lee-Rekers has assembled four solid actors who present enduring character studies. Stand out is Ariadne Sgouros as the spunky Dora whose subtle facial expressions and engagement with other characters steal the show. Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn puts in a strong turn as the hapless Gene, who eventually displays such pathos we feel the weight of the world through his attempt to reach righteousness. Alexander Stylianou is excellent as Frank, a character with many of the plays witty lines, and one of the funniest ‘problems’ of the play. Meg Clarke rounds the cast out as Annette, making something very interesting of a character that could easily slip into a stereotype. Interactions between the women are particularly strong, beautifully written and cleverly performed, recalling one of those great theatre moments when you see something perfectly reflected back from the stage.

The Divorce Party is an excellent production. Beautifully written and filled with great characters and strong direction, Life After Productions have given us a powerful addition to 505 Theatres already very strong Fresh Works program for 2019. A shout out to all those at the 505 Theatre for this wonderful little season. Exploring plays written by local talent is one of the greatest joys of attending theatre, and this years Fresh Works has been stellar from start to finish. It all bodes well for Life After Productions also, who have added yet another great production to their growing oeuvre. You have only a few chances to see The Divorce Party. Make sure you get there.