By Narelle Wood
Cuckoo, written by Jane Miller and presented by 15 Minutes from Anywhere, is a dark comedy that delivers on both promises of darkness and humour. It’s an ordinary night, Mel and Leo are having an ordinary conversation until a knock at the door reveals the unexpected: the return of their long ago lost son J. Over the next 90 minutes the plot teeters on tragedy as it explores the effects of such monumental events on those involved.
Miller’s script is something quite unique. Most of the dialogue seems like benign chatter, with characters often talking to themselves, and over the top of each. However this is actually a cleverly disguised ploy for plot exposition as each seemingly random utterance reveals small details about the characters, their relationships and how those relationships are shifting. Under Alice Bishop’s direction these layers of conversations are perfectly timed and interspersed with just the right amount of pause.
The lighting and character movement are also used to establish story and character dynamic. Lighting changes are used to denote flashbacks that only give glimpses into the past, never really revealing too much. And while the characters are always moving, it never appears too busy, but rather adds to the understanding of where this story is and perhaps where it is going.
The ensemble cast of Natalie Carr (Mel), Matthew Molony (Leo), David Kambouris (Dan) and Samuel Russo (J) are exceptional and just one more element that makes this play work so well. The chemistry between the cast heightens the uncomfortable feeling that something is not right and that perhaps one or more of the characters is being manipulative, but you’re never quite sure who or what they are up to. Russo’s portrayal of J is both infantile and calculating, which borders on the sociopathic and is completely intriguing.
The subject matter of Cuckoo could have been harrowing and potentially offensive. But instead what it accomplishes is an honest, unsettling and thoroughly humorous account of life in the face of tragedy. Everything about this play works, and I walked out slightly disturbed but thoroughly entertained.
Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 flinders lane
Season: 8th to 26th July
Tickets: Full $36 | Conc $28
Bookings: fortyfivedownstairs.com ph: 96629966
Image by Lachlan Woods