How many NIDA graduates from 2017 does it take to put on a play?
In the case of THE DIVORCE PARTY, the answer is three.
Set in a dingy forecourt of a Chinese restaurant, four disparate people commingle whilst taking a break from the divorce party being celebrated inside the restaurant. Bashed and bleeding, Gene is the first to arrive, coming through a gap in the fence into the designated smoking area.
He is soon joined by Dora, entering from the more conventional way of the premises’ door. She is talkative and inquisitive, he is quiet and reticent. Their banter is kept at a canter by the gregarious, extroverted Dora, until the emergence of Frank, official photographer of the event.
We learn that Frank’s usual gig is official photographer of funerals, but that divorce is kind of like the death of a marriage, so his present assignment is not much of a departure from filming the dear departed.
The quartet is complete with the rambunctious entrance of Annette, dolled up in party best, pissed to the gills on bubbly.
As they smoke and chat, their characters are revealed as is their various relationships to the party throwers.
The common link appears to be the soon bride not to be, Jeannine, although the groom’s family, the Jensons, a major player in the community, is really the lynch pin that connects the quartet.
Emblazoned with embezzlement and adultery, THE DIVORCE PARTY offers jigsaw puzzle characters that try to fit the big picture.
Ariadne Sgouros is astoundingly good as Dora, the garrulous ex postie who has been post office counter bound since being thrown off her bike during a delivery. She takes centre stage from the get go and holds it solidly for nigh on sixty minutes.
Alexander Stylianou portrays Frank with a nuanced arrested development, a churlish infantilism enhanced by his insistence of straddling a child’s tricycle.
Meg Clark as hairdresser Annette gives a fire cracker turn in a tizz fuelled by fizz, while Badaidilaga Maftuh-Flynn offers intrigue as the ambiguous, enigmatic banker, Gene.
Alexander Lee-Reekers production benefits from a terrific set by Damien Egan, all graffitied, peeling wall, and paving stone and gravel underfoot.
Another benefit, for actors and audience alike, is the choice to mime the cigarette smoking – we get the drift without getting the drift.
Liz Hobart’s script was a notable presence in last year’s Rapid Read section at Old 505, duly winning a full production gig at the venue in this year’s Fresh Works season.