The Ancient Greeks were certainly good for a couple of things: The invention of tragedy and comedy in the beginnings of modern western theatre; and the idea of the infinitesimal. This impossibly small space in-between something and nothing is the region where Wakey Wakey exists – a show that doesn’t skew tragic or comedic but instead places its wheelchair assisted-self somewhere across both. This is terrific work from Director David Myles and the team at Red Stitch.
Justin Hosking plays Guy, a man spinning a tale both individual and universal. He spends much of the show in a wheelchair, moving carefully around to regard different sections of the audience and speak with them.
Although, it’s more like speaking to the audience as if we were a character. The deft trick playwright Will Eno pulls is not having Guy step over the fourth wall, but rather extend it outward to encompass us and bring us into his storytelling. And that storytelling is lovely.
Justin has complete mastery over the pace, ebb and flow, of Guy’s words. Even as some of these words only come with a struggle later, there’s an ease to them that’s incredibly engaging. It makes the gentle introduction of the nurse/carer, Lisa, the subsequent transition towards the end, and the end itself very moving.
Justin is supported well by Nicole Nabout, who quickly established her character as pragmatic, yet compassionate. Nicole lifted, what might be in lesser hands, a functional role into another empathetic layer of the story.
Themes of arrival and departure are supported by James Lew’s set design. More transitional than it is incomplete, the stage is plainly dressed, stripped mostly of its clutter with just a few strewn cardboard boxes. It’s a subtle question that’s presented: Is someone moving out, or moving in? And in the play’s final minutes, it offers a beautiful answer.
Red Stitch Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel Street, St Kilda East
Performance: Saturday 27 April 2019 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 19 May 2019
Information and Bookings: www.redstitch.net
Image: Nicole Nabout and Justin Hosking in Wakey Wakey – photo by Teresa Noble
Review: David Collins