Monday, November 14, 2011

This Unchartered Hour

Theatre Royal
Written by Finegan Kruckemeyer
Produced by Tasmania Performs
Directed by Robert Jarman

I have been reliably told that when you lose your child you never get over it, you just get on with it.

A simple black stage with a lone cellist opened This Uncharted Hour by Finegan Kruckemeyer and the characteristically melancholy notes issued a warning to the audience – this is not going to be light and breezy. The story of a still-born child and the lingering grief of both parents led the audience through the rugged territory of pain and loss that cuts keenly long after the event. The performances by Jane Longhurst and Ben Winspear deftly conveyed the damaged beings that emerge from the fog of grieving, going on to have another child who is forced to carry that burden through his own life. It is a tough subject and Kruckemeyer shows an uncanny level of empathy in conjuring up that great black hole that death presents.

The simple staging was like a blank canvas that left plenty of room for the performances to dominate, although there were times when there was too much action happening in a cluster around the musician. Cellist Antony Morgan’s subtle presence was a welcome relief from the dense subject matter and helped steer the audience through the moods and messages of the play beautifully. Danny Pettingill’s lighting was another excellent source of levity amongst the heavy emotions.

For me it was really the women that carried the show, in the contrast between Longhurst’s encumbered, loving loyalty and Mel King’s serially single temptress. The absent, yet dominant deceased brother, played by Kai Raisbeck, was a good device for illustrating the distraction of the mother. Stronger again was the character of Luka, the second and surviving son played with skillful innocence by Brett Rogers. The scenes between the two brothers told their story cleverly and I enjoyed watching the tension play out between them.

This Uncharted Hour is a story of the dangers of untended grief and a warning that mourning the dead should not come at the expense of love for the living. However, the only hint of redemption came from Luka in confronting his dead sibling, exposing the relics of a life never had and putting him in his place as just a memory. It may be symptomatic of my age and overexposure to the ills of the world, but I feel that with so much bleak reality and raw emotion in a play it would have been nice to have been offered more hope ... just to help us get on with it.

by Stephenie Cahalan

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