by Kylie Eastley
As We Forgive is a play written by award winning playwright Tom Holloway specifically for Hobart based actor, Robert Jarman. Last night was the opening and Jarman played to a packed house including the usual VIP's who showed their appreciation with a hearty encore.
As We Forgive consists of 3 monologues; each a narrative that discusses three important elements to the human psyche. The first is vengeance. Jarman appears on stage as an elderly man dressed in a tweed jacket with cane in hand. He slumps into an old arm chair and welcomes the audience, thanking them for coming out on this 'auspicious evening'.
He tells the story of a man living an ordinary life within a very small world; his home, the local shop, a nearby park. The story unfolds and we hear how this world is shattered by the actions of another and the impact this has on him. Rather than hide away in fear he instead opts for vengeance as a way forward.
The second character speaks of a 'good man' that he meets and the relationship he thinks he sees between this man and his son. As the story unfolds our stomache churns as it takes a direction that sickens us. As the layers are stripped away we understand that Jarman is this young boy who has survived such trauma and who intentionally takes the path of hatred rather than forgiveness.
The third monologue is someone different again. A man appears on stage wearing sandshoes, jeans and zip up jacket. He appears neglected, damaged, empty. I have walked past men and women like this so many times. It's difficult to grasp this man's history, but Jarman performs the character brilliantly. A man who made a mistake and knows he is not really forgiven, even though the words have been uttered.
All these stories are so familiar. We relate to the characters, the stories, the sentiment. But this doesn't make it pedestrian, quite the opposite, we invest in the narratives, we go on the ride in this exploration of alternative moral decision making. To be vengeful instead of accepting, to hate instead of forgive and to question forgiveness as a genuine and honest response to tragedy.
I love a production where it all works and this is a good example of such a production. Robert Jarman completely takes on these three characters and I am lost in his words; he is the old man, the traumatized boy and the bleeding man. He has worked hard to become these characters. His performance is humorous, strong but subtle; there is no heavy handed characterisation, but the creation of real people on stage telling us these ordinary but extraordinary stories.
Direction by Julian Meyrick is fantastic. He balances the subtleties between script, actor, lighting, music and visual image just right. With all combining to engage and hold the audience.
The writing is beautiful and truly reflective of the dialogue we have with ourselves; unfinished sentences, questioning, repetition...it is like Holloway has been eaves dropping on the internal chatter of 3 damaged souls. His exploration into our moral dilemma is an interesting subject, especially in an age where self help books about forgiveness and inner peace are thriving.
'We are so much less than we could be'.
Holloway's script and Jarman's performance are perfectly accompanied by the atmospheric lighting by Nicholas Higgins and Gareth Kays and projections of domestic and ordinary spaces and buildings; all with an archival feel to them. These photographs, by well known Tasmanian photographer Lisa Garland, are beautifully emotive with deep reds and oranges; they give an impression of the past, history, memory.
Antony Morgan is the cellist who provides the music between the 3 works which is moody and evocative. The score, composed by Raffaele Marcellino, beautifully marries with the lighting, the projected images and the mood created through Holloway's script.
One of my favourite things about As We Forgive is that Robert Jarman surprised me with his performance. His morphing face and voice were unfamiliar - this man was someone I didn't know and surely this must be a huge accomplishment for an actor who is so well known within his home town.
As We Forgive demonstrates the joy that can come from combining highly skilled artists from both within and outside of the state. It was a pleasure to experience and I hope we see more of such collaborative productions.
As We Forgive is produced by Annette Downs Tasmania Performs and tours Tasmania as part of Ten Days on the Island 2013. It is performed at the Backspace Theatre, Hobart from 9-16. March.