Talented hard-working cast enliven new Australian play
By Myron My
Written by Ross Mueller, Lifetime Guarantee is a story shared by five characters whose lives intertwine as they seek love and connection in the modern world. Julian Dibley-Hall and Charles Purcell play Charles and Daniel, a couple living together who don’t seem to actually want to be with each other despite their protestations. Charlie’s new assistant Jodie has some interesting sexual predilections and Daniel’s ex-wife Chloe is trying to move on with her life. And then there’s Francis, whose interactions with each character seems to lead to situations in which they’d rather not be.
Unfortunately Mueller’s script feels under-developed, with some questionable character motivations throughout. The cast themselves do well with their characters’ limited development, and with direction that seems surprisingly over-the-top, awkward and unnatural. Candace Miles manages to breathe some life into the aggrieved Chloe, bringing pleasing nuance to her portrayal. Izabella Yena as Jodie is initially full of spark and creates interest in her character, but once the assistant’s “secret” is revealed, Jodie immediately becomes one-note and repetitive where even Yena’s energy and effort is unable to make her relevant again.
Jodie’s revelation, while intended to create shock and intrigue, is just ridiculous, and there seems to be no purpose in having this transpire except to make some sex-related puns. Similarly, the scene involving Francis visiting Daniel to fix his broken washing machine is preposterous, and becomes merely a plot function to drive the story go down the path Mueller wants.
For me, John Sheedy‘s direction is often jarring and prevents any emotional connection being established, with even intimate moments feeling cold and artificial. Simple actions like entering and exiting from the same side of the stage break the realism and if the production goes to all the trouble of having a working shower on stage, why did they decide to have an actor pretend to spit out coffee from an empty cup?
What is interesting about Lifetime Guarantee is the level of importance that ‘models’ of things have: Charlie and his model house signify the life he idealises, Jodie and her model cars are symbolic of the kind of love she desires, and there’s Jodie’s friend who has been offered a job to create a model of the Great Wall of China. The idea that everyone is trying to build these perfect lives for themselves with intricate and minute care, but end up ignoring the significance of the things happening around them is fascinating, but sadly never fleshed out.
Lifetime Guarantee attempts to examine modern life and the ways people experience loneliness and struggle to connect with others. Unfortunately the writing and direction here cannot inspire any deeper thought beyond the surface of themes that have been staged many times before.
Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda
Season: Until 26 February | Tues – Sat 7:30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets: $38 Full | $30 Conc
Photo by Pier Carthew