Cat Martin as She/Her and Michael Cullen as He/Him star in this strong Australian drama
Onstage as we enter, in everyday clothes, they break down the ‘fourth wall ‘ and portray a creative couple struggling to come to terms with the loss of their small son, Tom, by frenziedly burying themselves in work.
Staged in an intimate, basic ‘black box’ studio environment , with just a couple of chairs and a few lights it is as if the actors are in the middle of rehearsal,with water bottles and pages of script scattered everywhere, the performers scrambling for the right pages . Her and Him are caught in tragedy, and we see their struggle to try to remain static, to re- connect , to move forward and simply to just Be. Fragile, hopeful possibilities lead to sorrow.
Martin is marvelous as the grieving, guilt ridden daughter who has also lost her mother Marjorie. She is painfully poignant in the beautifully acted scenes about their young son Tom and how much she loves him. Tears are mingled with laughter. Martin has a wonderful opening scene, reflecting a daughter’s guilt and mother’s love while driving through the cemetery.
Handsome Michael Cullen as He/Him is terrific as he also sadly grieves for their son. At first there are hilarious word games and imagination games played (if you were the child of these two particular celebrities…). We gradually learn that She is a popular children’s playwright and novelist; He is far less successful, a former medic now also at home, earning far less than she does, trying to write for TV. At times his hidden envy and bitterness is revealed.
Mueller’s script is at times joyous and funny with lots of snappy one liners and at other times is poignant , lyrical and moving .Readers might be familiar with his ‘Zebra’ and/or ‘Concussion’. Cullen as He has an almost Surrealist monologue , soaring and impressive , as a male nurse describing Marjorie’s death and visions of Heaven just before she died to Her .
Mueller’s intelligent and sophisticated play is about love, loss, grief, death and the breakup of a relationship. At times there are overlapping speech patterns and rhythms and there is an attempt at ‘distancing’ and ‘alienation’ with the use of voice-overs, as well as stage directions being read aloud and the fluid, many layers of the play seamlessly flow and interlock , weave together their various strands of meaning and thought . A dynamic, gripping production that is powerful and seductive. The play ends with a poetic but shattering denouement .
Running time an hour (approx) no interval
Apocalypse Theatre Company’s version of Ross Mueller’s CONSTRUCTION OF THE HUMAN HEART, directed by Dino Dimitriades and starring Michael Cullen and Cat Martin with voiceover work by Angela Bauer is playing the Tap Gallery until the 3rd May.