Review: Strange Interlude

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote a review for a theatre play. I feel I should in this instance because I’ve finally seen something early enough (last night’s performance was a preview) in its run to be able to at least encourage someone to go see it.

Strange Interlude had been written about no less than three times in the Fairfax press. Which was surprising because they wrote a rather harsh review about Belvoir’s previous play, Every Breath. Well, they convinced me to go see this play, and I’m happy to report back to you!

This was the first time I had seen something at Belvoir St. So it was interesting to see whether the crowd was similar to that at Sydney Theatre Company plays (I’m a subscriber to STC). To my surprise, there was a larger contingent of younger people. I think it is great that main stage theatre in Sydney is no longer the domain of older patrons.

Now about the actual play.

Strange Interlude is originally written by Eugene O’Neill, Pulitzer Prize winner and one of America’s well known playwrights. Director Simon Stone has rewritten this with a contemporary twist. No, it’s not a rewrite of the five-hour original, but a compact piece that still gets across the main issues. I really loved how he has kept the original setting and has added references to modern conveniences to make the play remain relevant.

The story goes like this. 20 year old Nina Leeds (played by Emily Barclay, who was recently in This Is Our Youth) has just lost her husband to the war. We follow her life over the next 25 years as she attempts to get her life back on track. Through a series of affairs, another marriage and a pregnancy, we see the small events in life shown against a web of secrets.

The set was minimal, yet functional: a seamless white backdrop (photographer’s heaven) that allowed a lot of imagination. Also fascinating was the rolling shower and the toy train track (which was somewhat distracting).

Because Strange Interlude is set over a long period of time, it is up to the actors to ‘look the part’ to preserve the story, especially in the later scenes. Barclay’s portrayal of Nina remained true and real to Nina’s life. Mitchell Butel’s Charlie Marsden becomes more of a caricature towards the end, which helped keep the comic relief present.

I really enjoyed this play. Some people will never like the classics to be rewritten, but if it gets young people interested, then it is well worth it. You should go see this too, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Strange Interlude plays until 17 June. Tickets are $42 for students/concession, $62 for adults. There is a $29 student rush for the Tuesday evening and Saturday matinée. Details: http://www.belvoir.com.au/productions-1/strange-interlude

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