Sandy Gore is a commanding presence no matter what role she plays. In The Plant, she takes on the persona of Sue, a woman still grieving the death of her husband three years previously and getting little sympathy from her three adult children, who are all too engrossed in their own lives to give her the attention she craves.
The eldest daughter Erin, played with great conviction by Helen Dallimore, is focused on her career and children; her younger sister Naomi, played by Briallen Clarke, is a lost soul without a direction and purpose in life; and their brother Daniel, played by Garth Holcombe, has just suffered a relationship breakdown, and has no sympathy to spare.
Sue’s main beef about her children is that they don’t and won’t listen to her, so she turns to Rex begonia, a house plant she names Clare, which proves to be an attentive listener – certainly not one likely to answer back or run away.
When Sue’s children come to visit, they are surprised to find a woman called Clare living in their mother’s house. Clare is covered in palm leaves and wears flowers on her head, and would appear to be a material projection of Sue’s emotional longing.
Unfortunately, Sue does not present as a character who is worth listening to, while the selfish children only respond when Sue is carted off to hospital with a stroke. Are they concerned about their inheritance, we wonder.
In the end, one doesn’t care much about any of these characters, including the very weird Clare, who is the objective correlative of a plant. We certainly do not ever see Clare listening to Sue, and so we never find out if Sue has anything interesting to say or whether she just whinges about her children.
As usual, the Ensemble presents a stage that is perfect for the piece (Isabel Hudson) and professional lighting (Benjamin Brookman), and director Elsie Edgerton-Till does the best she can with the script, bringing out its redeeming humour that has its laugh-out-loud moments.
Until Aug 5. Ensemble Theatre, 78 St, Kirribilli. $34-$71. Tickets & Info: www.ensemble.com.au or PH: 02 9929 0644
Reviewed by Irina Dunn