SYDNEY FESTIVAL REVIEW: Afterplay & The Yalta Game

Alison Nadebaum

Afterplay and The Yalta Game are charming, sophisticated works of theatre, showing as part of the Sydney Festival, to celebrate the work of Irish playwright Brian Friel.
SYDNEY FESTIVAL REVIEW: Afterplay & The Yalta Game
Celebrating the work of Irish playwright Brian Friel, Gate Theatre Dublin has brought three Friel works to Sydney audiences as part of the 2009 Sydney Festival – Faith Healer, Afterplay, and The Yalta Game. Both running at around an hour, Afterplay and The Yalta Game are charming, sophisticated works of theatre – completely separate works, but attending both on one night certainly enhanced my first experience and impression of Gate Theatre. In Afterplay, Friels has brought together two Chekhov characters, Sonya (niece of Uncle Vanya) and Andrey (brother of the titular three sisters), some twenty years after we last ‘saw’ them. Having met in a cafe as strangers, we follow their sometimes-awkward discussion; slowly discover the fate of both respective families and the events that have ensued over the past two decades. Both Niall Buggy, as Andrey, and Francesca Annis as Sonya gave masterful performances. These are two consummate actors – the type you watch and silently think, ‘Oh, I see – this is acting’. The nuances in their character choices; the skilful grasp of silences; timing; and pace; coupled with clever and adept direction by Robin Lefevre; resulted in a very poignant, very compelling performance. The Yalta Game, more stylised in script and design than the naturalistic Afterplay, is certainly one of the best pieces I have seen in recent times. Again, Friel has taken an element of Chekhov’s work – this time the short story, The Lady with the Lapdog. A gentleman holidays in Yalta alone where he, essentially, picks up an unhappily married young woman with a little dog through quirky humour and inventing frivolous, entertaining stories about fellow holiday-makers. After their brief summer dalliance, they return to their respective homes; only to find themselves obsessing over memories of the other. Exploring the notions of love; lust; loneliness; and longing; the short piece ends on a devastatingly beautiful bittersweet note – much like Chekhov’s artful novella. I found this piece to be sophisticated; insightful; and utterly delightful. The playful nature of the piece was serviced by masterful performances by Risteard Cooper and Rebecca O’Mara. Simultaneously frolicsome and complex; giddy yet grounded; the performances given by these two artists were some of the most enjoyable and engaging I’ve seen. Both pieces had fine design elements and direction, but for me; the night belonged to these four fine actors; and though I thought Afterplay to be a fine piece of theatre; my heart and mind was truly captured and utterly enchanted by the bittersweet, naively innocent, emotionally liberating essence of The Yalta Game - I urge you to see this utterly captivating piece of theatre. All three shows play as part of Sydney Festival at the Parade Theatre, NIDA, until 31 January. Find out more at sydneyfestival.org.au.

About the author

Alison Nadebaum recently moved to Sydney from Western Australia, and has worn many different hats within the arts industry, including actor, director, writer, usher, administrator, publicist, producer, finance officer, avid theatre-goer, and follow-spot operator (to varying degrees of success – particularly that last one). Prior to her west coast defection, Alison held the role of Producer at independent performance company ThinIce, and now works at the Sydney Opera House.