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Every Breath

Gareth Beal

BELVOIR: Director Benedict Andrews has turned his hand to playwriting; the results are less than successful.
Every Breath
In Every Breath there are a couple of passages which, I think, are particularly telling. The first is when Lydia describes life with her husband, Leo:

LYDIA.
Aren’t they beautiful. Leo knows their names. When we first met – when we were wild for each other – we’d lie like this, under the stars, he’d name them, tell me the stories up there. Long time since we did that. Living with Leo is like living with a black hole. He sucks in everything. All our lives. There is no Leo. There’s only pages to be filled. He’s not here. Really here.

The second passage is when their teenage daughter, Olivia, describes her relationship with her twin brother, Oliver:

OLIVIA.
Mirrors. Right? Do you have any idea what it’s like to walk around with this
living, breathing mirror beside you? Someone who always says what you’re thinking – just when the thought pops into your head? Who likes what you like and wants what you want? Can you imagine what it’s like to live with a constant reminder of your absolute lack of singularity?

Really, though, both passages actually describe Chris, the security guard who stands vigil out by the family’s swimming pool six nights a week. Leo is a famous writer, the family wealthy. Someone has made threats against them – hence Chris. Chris is quiet, malleable. Androgynous. Standing out by the pool, Chris reflects all their narcissistic desires.

And we know what happened to Narcissus.

If it sounds like an intriguing set-up, well, it is. But writer/director Benedict Andrews desperately needed someone to rein him in, to challenge his vision, to break the surface of the reflection in which the play itself ultimately drowns. An otherwise strong (and very brave) cast look all at sea here, especially Shelly Lauman as Chris, a part requiring her to pull off the difficult trick of being compellingly bland. I suspect this would be easier to achieve in the context of a film, and certainly the choppy scenes and obtrusive music suggest a particular variety of independent cinema. The set design, too, is unnecessarily complicated, not so much a background as an unwieldy centrepiece.

The script was part of the program for this one, so I’ll lean on it just one more time to try to convey the experience of watching Every Breath, and why I cannot recommend it. The cast are frequently required to undress, so I’ll take a leaf out of that book too and strip pages 38-44 (approximately 10 minutes’ worth) of all but one of its monologues (indicated by […]). It reads:

OLIVER.
Stands masturbating. Eyes closed. Mouth open. In a kind of trance.

[…]

Silence.

[...]

LEO.
Stands masturbating. Eyes closed. Mouth open. Desperate.

[...]

LYDIA.
Masturbates. Weeps. Still masturbating.

[...]

OLIVIA.
Lies on her belly, masturbating. She sucks her fingers, touches between her legs.
Looks out into the night.

OLIVIA.
Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. [Her orgasm] Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. [Sobbing] Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris. Chris.

That’s hardly fair, I know. But the blame really lies with Belvoir for allowing 90 minutes of intellectual masturbation to be put on their stage in the first place.

Rating: 1 star out of 5

Every Breath
Written and directed by Benedict Andrews
Music composed by Oren Ambarchi
Sound design by Luke Smiles
Set and costume design by Alice Babidge
Performed by John Howard, Shelly Lauman, Eloise Mignon, Angie Milliken and Dylan Young

Belvoir Theatre
March 24 – April 29

About the author

Gareth Beal is a freelance writer, editor and creative writing teacher who has written for a range of online and print publications. He lives on the NSW Central Coast with his wife and two cats.

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