Writer and director, Paul Gilchrist, was inspired by the true story of Simone Weil, a radical, controversial French Jewish intellectual and activist who fled from France to New York during World War II. It is not a biopic as Gilchrist freely admits to taking liberties with the details. The title, however, reflects a true life dilemma felt by Weil that has been applied to the fictional character.
“The character, Simone […] feels stuck in New York during the war when she feels she should be back where the action is. She feels that life is impossible while she doesn’t have agency,” says Gilchrist.
Simone, played by Chloe Schwank, is serious and tormented. Elaine – played by Elle Harris – on the other hand is bubbly and enthusiastic. She is a 22-year-old Australian who has been sent to New York because of her typing skills (and perhaps some “extra duties” in the mind of her boss).
“The play works on a dynamic between the Simone character and the Elaine character. The Elaine character is a young Australian in New York at the time, and she’s overwhelmed with excitement about being in New York…for her it’s just your standard dream come true,” explains Gilchrist.
Elaine has an image of New York that has derived from Hollywood films. Her mindset is portrayed in the play through musical theatre style sequences which, at first, express naivety, but then come to represent hope through imagination. By contrast, Simone is deeply intellectual and pragmatic.
Through their meeting, the two women influence each other’s perspective to ultimately arrive at a more balanced world view.
“I would hope that [audiences] would find it entertaining, because in our last production we found that the humour worked well, the song and dance worked well. But it’s also a play that asks audiences to think,’what is the best political strategy?’” concludes Gilchrist.
Until Feb 23. Old 505 Theatre, 5 Eliza St, Newtown. $25-$30+b.f Tickets & Info: www.subtlenuance.com
By Rita Bratovich