Dead Centre/Sea Wall is a tricky work, made up of two monologues, each exploring themes of grief and possible madness. They are companion pieces, with Dead Centre hinting at events via the unreliable, perhaps manic, Helen (Rosie Lockhart) and Sea Wall supplying more concrete details through Alex (Ben Prendergast).
Dead Centre, by Australian playwright Tom Holloway, was commissioned as a sort of response to Sea Wall, written by British playwright Simon Stephens. The show begins with Helen, an Englishwoman, explaining how she came to live in Australia and her trip to Uluru. Lockhart is at turns droll and vague and lacerating, bewildered and haunted as she skilfully inhabits the challenging role.
Next (no intermission) is Alex, an Irishman and decent bloke harbouring almost unspeakable sadness. Prendergast is convincing as a man resisting mental collapse when it seems all paths lead to sorrow, tainting everything past, present and future.
It’s a little counter-intuitive to have the commissioned work, Dead Centre, precede the original. But Holloway’s script abstracts thought and emotion brilliantly. Director Julian Meyrick wisely lets the actors and their stories speak for themselves, with minimal distractions of sets or props.
On the small stage of the Old Fitz, the narrator stands in front of an almost sheer black screen, with occasional movement on or behind the screen (digital design by Katie Cavanagh), often to eerie effect. Sound design (Ian Moorhead) supports but does not overwhelm. Co-presented by Red Stich Actors Theatre and Red Line Productions, Dead Centre/Sea Wall is darker than light but not without humour, the impression left a tribute to the commitment and talent of all involved. (OA)
Until Nov 14 (Tues-Sat 7:30pm, Sunday 5pm). Old Fitzroy Theatre, 129 Dowling Street (Cnr Cathedral Street), Woolloomooloo. $25-$35. Tickets & info: oldfitztheatre.com
BY OLGA AZAR