Two new works presented as a double feature provide somewhat of a highlight in the current Sydney Fringe Festival.
The first play, Home Country, has young Dorothy, sans ruby shoes but with the hopefulness of rose coloured glasses, escaping the UK, not Kansas, and ending up in Oz, at Uluru. She’s bunked in with Jane in an unexpected twin accommodation that forces them into a close proximity communion.
From the get go, Home Country illustrates just how intense two people in tents can be. To hilarious effect. Dorothy attempts to break the ice, revealing that Jane is her second name, but Jane, not best pleased at having to share is reluctant to engage. With time, though, through the travails of snapping, smoking, snoring and sparring, the thorniness becomes less pricking, the frostiness thaws as present experience shared intersects with certain past commonalities.
Susan Jordan is terrific as the no nonsense, flinty Jane, the Cowra café owner on a cathartic pilgrimage to Uluru. Funny in her defensiveness, blithely hilarious in her bluntness, there’s a beautiful truth in the performance. Playwright Stephanie Reeves plays Dorothy, a role tailor made, to be sure, and she wears it wonderfully well, the quality of performance matched by the fabric of the witty and poignant dialogue.
Essentially a two hander, Home Country boasts some solid support work from Abi Rayment, Giddy Pillai and Muskan Gumber in fleshed out flashback. Directed by Glen Hamilton and Romney Hamilton with tight stagecraft, Home Country is a sweet and very funny rendering of odd couples, chance meetings, and musings on what constitutes home and country.
The second play, The One, examines the trials and tribulations, the tripwires and tightropes of internet dating. The ghosting and gas-lighting and all the ghastly goings on when you enter the Tinder trap are enough to make one think seriously of celibacy.
Written and directed by Mel Jensen who also stars as the plays protagonist, The One charts the progressive meet ups and disappointments of potential partners. Jensen the playwright engages in a device of meta theatricality by casting her best friend, played by Emily Shaddick, as her avatar, placing her virtually front and centre during some of the disastrous dating encounters. But only intermittently. A device employed to ameliorate passive girlfriend postmortem talk perhaps.
The old sentiment of you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince, an archaic, sexist yet prevailing parable springs to mind as the protagonist recounts and re-stages numerous not so enchanted rendezvous. These are personified by three marvellously amusing actors, Oliver Harcourt-Ham, Enoch Li and Matthew Van Den Berg, playing types ranging from the toxic to the tragic, shag obsessed to shy, vox pop vignettes that are in turns hysterically funny and chillingly scary.
Enter John Michael Narres, seemingly “the one”, kind, polite, empathetic. Is this the dream date, a destined mate, or another dead end fate?
Two contrasting plays, by degrees funny and confronting, Home Country and The One, a double delight worth serious consideration.
Little Cup Theatre Productions presents
by Stephanie Reeves | directed by Glen Hamilton and Romney Hamilton
written and directed by Mel Jensen
Venue: Darlo Drama Studio Theatre | Level 1, 16-18 Oxford Square, Darlinghurst NSW
Dates: 22 September – 1 October 2023
Tickets: $40 – $36
Part of the 2023 Sydney Fringe Festival