It was a promising start reading the program for the production Lifetime Guarantee – in demand, award winning writer Ross Mueller’s new work, directed by the very experienced John Sheedy. This is Sheedy’s first venture in his new role as artistic director of St Kilda’s Theatre Works. The subject matter – issues of a gay couple, divorce, a ’67 Mustang and sex tapes all sound intriguing. All this set reasonably high expectations.
The story follows a gay couple Danny (Charles Purcell) and Charlie (Julian Dibley- Hall) and the challenges of making their relationship work. Danny is a TV presenter with a wife, Chloe (Candace Miles) that he’s trying to divorce. To make things more complex, they also have a son. Charlie is a semi established architect, who has just hired a new assistant Jody (Izabella Yena). They hit it off almost instantly which leads him to discover a bizarre secret about her, which he then blurts out to partner Danny who wants to pursue the scoop. Jody’s father Frances (Mark Constable) is also weaved in to the story to reveal the meaning behind the secret.
Walking into the space, one gets blown away by the dazzling set. Ellen Stanistreet’s creation visually stood out, with clever use of light, shadow, levels and colour, giving each space a definition and purpose. The futuristic-looking set also included domestic elements such as a washing machine, and a functioning shower – which gets used during the course of the show. Whether the feature worked to the benefit of the story is debatable, however as a part of the set it was admirable.
Necessary vs unnecessary is a common theme in a lot of contemporary theatre and this production throws itself open to debate as well. What was the necessity of having a real working shower on stage, an actor using it, and then getting completely naked in order to change the wet clothes, is something I couldn’t work out. One could argue that it was a quirk, a bold move and perhaps some people enjoyed it. Another scene that stood out was a close encounter of two men with a washing machine!
The subject matter of two men in a relationship is very promising, and one is drawn in initially. However, apart from the fact that it brings up the problem of not being able to hold hands in public, the rest of the play doesn’t do the portrayal of same sex couples any favours.
The performances were largely consistent and the actors created some striking images with their physicality, which were visually very interesting. Full credit to the director and actors for achieving this. Also contributing to the appeal were the simple, contemporary costumes and lighting.
A part of the dialogue was lost due to either disconnected delivery or lack of contribution to moving the story forward. It’s easy enough to follow individual scenes and the loose storyline, however the plot dilutes as the show progresses, without a conclusive finale. The performances rather than the story keep us involved. There were a few laugh out loud moments, which provide some relief from the concentration the fast paced narrative required.
Full marks to the show for style, one does hope that the rest of the Theatre Works season offers progress in substance.
Lifetime Guarantee is playing at Theatre Works in Acland St, St Kilda, 9th – 26th Feb 2017
Details can be found here.