SYDNEY FRINGE FESTIVAL: Sometimes you have to rip out Cupid’s arrow yourself.
We spend our lives chasing dreams, but does attaining them really matter in the end? We idealise the concept of love and seek endlessly to be loved, but are we looking for the wrong thing in the wrong places? The Allure of Disgrace
, written by Sophie Stone and presented by the Sydney Fringe and Dark Velvet Collective, is a play that asks questions about the ‘important questions’- life, love, death, God, and why we are here.
Sophie Stone is joined onstage by Kathryn Jackson for their international debut. In their native New Zealand they started their own independent theatre company, Angry Peach Productions, performing shows in the Wellington Fringe focused around power, politics, sexuality and self discovery. Their first show for the Sydney Fringe is being performed at Petersham Town Hall, an excellent venue consisting of one large main hall and two smaller spaces which adapt admirably to theatrical requirements and create an intimate atmosphere for their young and eclectic audience.
Madison (Stone) and Holly (Jackson) are two friends who come together to discuss life. Holly is full of questions and stories; Madison answers her questions condescendingly and listens to her stories impatiently. Their conversations cover a wide range of topics but a common thread runs through them: a search for the meaning of all these issues which everybody considers so important.
The past is a big part of their present. Madison can’t get over a lost love and Holly has retold her stories to Madison many times over. Their differences in personality are reflected in their sexuality: Madison, a romantic, is frustrated by no longer being able to be in his arms, and Holly the extrovert is tired of the emptiness of her promiscuity. Everything slowly unravels between and within them to reveal a tragicomic story of self discovery.
The Allure of Disgrace is superbly written, mixing elements of humour, sentimentality, poignancy and cynicism. Interest and tension are maintained throughout the 35 minutes of the play, and it is cleverly paced (certain moments of silence make a marked impact, recalling Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, which Stone cites as an inspiration for her play). Stone’s portrayal of the challenging role of Madison is detailed and succeeds in alternating between the character’s falsely secure outward demeanor and her internal fragility. Jackson’s performance is much less detailed, perhaps to suit her character, but possesses comic flair and is particularly impressive during the play’s thought-provoking and gripping final minutes.
The production (also directed by Stone) is simple and straightforward, a smart detail being the characters’ gradual stripping of their clothes as the text goes further into their emotional nakedness. Liam Holmes’ lighting is successful in expressing the characters’ different moods and episodes of fantasising, as is Holmes’ and Tim Weedon’s music.
The Allure of Disgrace is a bravely written and excellently performed play which marks a very successful playwriting debut for Sophie Stone and provides audiences with a thought-provoking perspective on many of the questions that we all ask ourselves today. It is sure to be one of the highlights of this year’s Sydney Fringe theatre offerings.
The Allure of Disgrace, Sydney Fringe Festival, season concluded.
Petersham Town Hall, 107 Crystal Street, Petersham
Sydney Fringe Festival, September 10 – 26