Gregory Clarke’s stage is a small square rostrum, painted with what looks like foliage, minor pieces of furniture sitting on the outside. Throughout the play, it helps create a nebulous sense of place. Are we still outside? Whose backyard? Are we in town? Are we inside the Jones’ house? No, the other Jones.
Bronwyn Pringle’s lighting design complements this. Scenes are almost all set outside, often at night, but she avoids any garish exterior porch light. Instead we have the soft remnants of the lights from the house, with moonlight coming in from what must be behind trees as it dapples over the stage.
At other times characters don’t always stand fully in the available low light, but this makes sense when considering how some characters play things close to the chest. These imprecise elements do not unsettle the audience, but rather draw them in closer to the language of Will Eno’s script, and the fine performances from the cast.
Justin Hoskin did well as John Jones, embodying more than anyone else the impression that inside John’s brain are a set of Oblique Strategies cards instead of the expected grey matter. Ella Caldwell played Polly Jones (John’s wife), an endearing performance in how Polly exists in a state between trepidation and forwardness.
Neil Pigot was wonderful as Bob Jones, his removed, dry delivery cause for a lot of the laughs, which Neil was able to accomplish without ever placing Bob as a point of ridicule or pity. Sarah Sutherland as Bob’s wife, Jennifer was the audience’s way in, a nicely weighted performance that held a lot of the play’s heart.
There’s literal and metaphorical darkness on the periphery throughout the show, and something about Jennifer’s laughter in the final scene gives the hopeful notion that, while the Joneses may not entirely be realistic, they certainly are resilient.
The Realistic Joneses
Red Stitch Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel Street, St. Kilda
Performance: Sunday 30 April 2017 – 6.00pm
Season continues to 28 May 2017
Information and Bookings: www.redstitch.net
Image: Ella Caldwell and Neil Pigot feature in The Realistic Joneses – photo by Teresa Noble
Review: David Collins