An Australian play! And by a living writer! Thank you Siren. Thank you Seymour.
But The Trouble With Harry is set in the past. Designers Alice Morgan, Matt Cox and Nate Edmondson effectively create a forlorn, sepia, early twentieth century Sydney.
The trouble with Harry is one of identity. Lachlan Philpott’s play is rich in motif: Little boys wanting to leave short trousers behind. Roosters called Lena. Bearded ladies at freak shows. Returned soldiers, in uniform still, but no longer whole. And the ceaseless suburban drone of ‘decency’.
“You think I chose this?” asks Harry, in a rare moment of vulnerability.
Elsewhere, “We’re doing fine,” he tells his wife.
“You act like a man,” she replies. “Do you also have to think like one?”*
With a fine cast, director Kate Gaul creates a captivating night of theatre. As always, her visual imagery is extraordinary.
Philpott’s script is both beautifully poetic and powerfully narrative driven. It’s a thought-provoking mix of direct address to the audience and firm-fourth-wall naturalism. Jodie Le Vesconte and Jane Phegan create the couple at the heart of the story, and present a moving portrayal of genuine affection under threat. Jonas Thomson and Bobbie-Jean Henning play their children, and it is in them we see the contrast between innocence and the pain of knowledge. Niki Owen and Thomas Campbell linger and lurk, giving voice to the gossipy neighbour, the constant observer, the perpetual gaze. They are the hegemonic narrative, and their performance is suitably unsettling.
The great tension in the concept of identity is this: Identity is our own, but it must be lived socially. (You can have your own private language, but it’s difficult to remain fluent, and only too easy to slip into a soulless silence.) Identity is both personal and political. This fault line is the cause of much pain.
A play set in the past always provokes. It asks are we doing any better.
The Trouble With Harry by Lachlan Philpott
Produced by Siren Theatre Company
Seymour Centre til 3 March
Tix and info here
* Apologies to Lachlan Philpott if I have misquoted his beautiful words.