Fraternal feuds and open emotions
By Margaret Wieringa
The audience enters to see a tidy, perfectly-kept kitchen and lounge with an array of houseplants on one side and the entrance hall on the other. Haunting country music plays as the lights dim and the actors enter. Austin, played by Charlie Mycroft, sits at the typewriter, working, while his brother Lee, played by Michael Argus, drinks beer and challenges him from across the room.
Sam Shepard’s True West is a play about relationships and families, as shown through these two brothers. Seemingly opposites, Shepard’s work takes us on a journey where each brother is challenged to question his relationship with each other as well as their place in the world.
And it is a journey that leads to intense emotions for the characters. This was difficult to capture in full in this performance as everything started at such a high level of energy. Mycroft did start the show quiet and restrained, with only very subtle movements, and this needed to be contrasted by Argus – and he did play a very opposite character – but right from the start, he was loud to the point of almost shouting, not leaving either character far to go. It felt as though we had arrived at the climax of emotion and it took the story a while to catch up. Des Fleming was great as Saul, the powerful producer who could make their dreams come true. He had a cheesiness that only just hid his power, and a flash of that charming smile could win just about anyone over. The end of the play should leave the audience somewhat exhausted, but I think it would have had even more impact had there been a gradual build-up throughout the performance.
Jacob Battista, who put together the beautiful set in a way that could be slowly destroyed quite spectacularly, was also responsible for the costuming. While I felt that the homeless look for Lee was a bit much for the character, especially the rope belt, the rest of the costuming was spot-on in creating a sense of middle America in the late 70s/early 80s.
This production of True West is an interesting and intense interpretation of this modern American classic, and is well worth a watch. The performance was thoroughly enjoyed by its sold-out audience, and tickets are selling fast. Matchstick Theatre has only been around for about a year, and so far they are proving themselves to be a company to watch.
When: October 12 – 22, Tues-Sun 8pm
Where: Metanoia Theatre, Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick 3056
Tickets: $20 – $30