In which Lydia Hoffman and Cate Casalme review Mermaid’s Closer and try to incorporate the title in as much as possible.
Our two reviewers walked into Barron Theatre last Sunday night with completely different expectations. Hoffman had seen the play before, but Casalme had only the name Natalie Portman to guide her. The bright lights of the Barron shone down on a mattress accompanied by a small table. The seats were positioned in the round, creating an intimate atmosphere and bringing the viewers closer to the action.
Patrick Marber’s Closer follows the story of two couples as they navigate the complexities of romance. The play is a whirlwind of raw emotions as the characters betray one another while expecting honesty and faithfulness from their partners. They claim to want love, but often fall victim to the powers of attraction and lust.
The direction was excellent, with undeniably creative choices, such as the use of television monitors above the stage, which transformed the minimalistic set into a range of locations. The actors were constantly moving around the stage, allowing each audience member to get closer to the action. Music was integrated flawlessly and expertly into scene changes, creating a cinematic feel to the production.
Louis Wilson shined in his role as Larry, a character whose insecurities pour out of him in the form of rage as he tries to elicit responses from the other three characters. Wilson’s talent was apparent throughout, but his ability to emote was most striking during the scene in the strip club. It is clear he is going to be a massive force going forward in Mermaids productions.
Ellie Hope had the extremely difficult task of playing a more reserved character to oppose her volatile counterparts, but she played the part excellently. Her neutral and sometimes cold demeanour made the other characters’ emotions seem so much more extreme, and the moment of her losing control and telling Alice to stop was incredibly impactful.
Hannah Gilchrist set the mood for the play as she opened instantly flirtatious. Her character, Alice, is the closest thing this show has to a singular protagonist. Though she refuses to allow anyone to get close to her past or even herself, she is a devout partner to Dan and never cheats. The actress’s most memorable scene was her reaction upon realising Dan has left her, she grapples with the realisation that this time it isn’t her who leaves. Hannah expertly drips away the confident, flirty facade and finally lets the audience glimpse the young, scared girl inside.
Bailey Fear developed his character consistently with emotion and passion. His character, Dan, is a boy so obsessed with the idea of love that he wrecks his relationships and manipulates others just to chase it, only to find himself unsatisfied and stuck in a toxic cycle. Fear portrayed his character in such a vulnerable way that whilst the audience generally didn’t like Dan as a character, they understood his motives. His acting was superb, taking us on a rollercoaster of emotions.
The single critique lies in the opening scene: the pacing was a bit too fast and it was difficult to really establish what was going on. However, as soon as the play was underway, the cast got into a rhythm that was easy to follow and very natural.
Whilst the show, like all others, had its shortcomings, overall the play was outstanding, balanced with moments of hilarity, anger, desperation, and vulnerability. The passion and hard work of every member of the cast and crew was evident throughout the entire production.
Rating: Five stars
Editor: Sarah Crawford