Strangers in Between has been around for a while: It’s been over ten years since actors first took Tommy Murphy’s words onto a stage and said them out aloud. What’s remarkable about this revival at fortyfivedownstairs is how little that vintage shows.
Its true strength – something brought out by Abbie Lea Hough’s sparse-yet-stylised set and Daniel Lammin’s gentle-yet-focussed direction – is the strength of the characters the story is built on.
Eyes bugging wide and gesticulating like Ric from The Young Ones after a three day PNP, Wil King plays Shane with an unsettling mix of nerves and mania. In contrast, Simon Burke grounds his role as the older Peter with a more seasoned mix of comfort and kindness. Guy Simon plays both sides in a double act – performing as Shane’s troubled brother, Ben, as well as his tentative lover, Will.
Disparate characters moving around a half-full bathtub (cleverly used pragmatically and symbolically), framed by a wide, shimmering curtain of metallic (as well as metaphorical) strips, in lesser hands these pieces wouldn’t come together as well as they do.
The result is coherent and sweet storytelling, with a lovely sense of humour woven in amongst the darker patches. One hopes to see more works that strike a similar balance between thoughtful and playful.
Strangers in Between
fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Performance: Thursday 25 January 2018 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 11 February 2018
Reginald Theatre – Seymour Centre, Corner City Road & Cleveland Street, Chippendale
Season: 14 February – 2 March 2018
Image: Wil King as Shane and Simon Burke as Peter in Strangers in Between – photo by Sarah Walker