Though set during a dinner in Richmond in 2010, the action of the play moves swiftly between locations as diverse as a Melbourne tram stop in 1975, a Budapest apartment in 1938, Nazi-occupied Budapest in 1944, Communist Hungary in 1956, a dance hall in Prahran in 1963 and a Richmond lounge-room in 1995. There are scenes in the streets of Budapest during the 1956 Hungarian uprising, on the Chain Bridge of the title.
All these location transitions and time changes are achieved with remarkable clarity and ingenuity by director Caroline Stacey utilising an extraordinarily flexible set design encompassing the whole expanse of the Street Theatre stage, outstanding sound and lighting design, and an accomplished cast of just five actors, Geraldine Turner, Peter Cook, Kate Hosking, Zsuzsi Soboslay and PJ Williams, all of whom play multiple characters so convincingly that the audience is persuaded that it is watching epic scenes with a cast of hundreds as the stories unfold.
Turner dominates the play in a tour-de force performance as Eva, the mother of Imre, an academic struggling to write a book about his family’s Budapest history, which he hopes will save both his career and his marriage. However before the book can be published some inconsistencies between his mother’s stories and the history have to be sorted.
In a last ditch attempt to establish the truth, and against the wishes of his wife, Sarah, (Kate Hosking), he invites his mother, and her two best friends, Katalin and her husband Jozsef (Zsuzsi Soboslay and PJ William) to dinner with explosive results.
Many of the disclosures are harrowing and the depictions of them distressing. The play provides riveting theatre, but because of the intense demands it makes on the audiences’ concentration, it is too long and would benefit from some judicious cutting. Once it becomes obvious, in the cataclysmic ‘Fuck History’ scene, that Imre’s search for the real truth will never be satisfied, everything that follows feel unnecessary and superfluous.
That aside, The Chain Bridge is a haunting play, brilliantly staged for this production with memorable performances by five outstanding actors.
Director: Caroline Stacey Featuring: Peter Cook, Kate Hosking, Zsuzsi Soboslay, Geraldine Turner, PJ Williams Set / Costume Design: Imogen Keen Lighting Design: Gillian Schwab Sound Design: Kimmo Vennonen
The Chain Bridge
The Street Theatre, 15 Childers Street, Canberra City West
Performance: Saturday 21 November 2015
Season continues to 29 November 2015
Bookings: (02) 6247 1223 or online at: www.thestreet.org.au
For more information, visit: www.thestreet.org.au for details.
Image: Kate Hosking, PJ Williams, Zsuzsi Soboslay, Peter Cook, Geraldine Turner feature in The Chain Bridge – photo by Lorna Sim
Review: Bill Stephens