Independent theatre productions are one of my favourite things- I am always more impressed with what can be acheived by a committed group of artists than a corporate brand. Shining City is one of those shows that you know you just want people to see because it is a really interesting story told well by a group of impressive actors.

First published on www.australianstage.com.au

Shining City| Griffin Independent & Inside Job Productions
On first glimpse, the diamond shaped stage of The SBW Stables Theatre- is looking a little transitional- white cardboard boxes hem two sides of the theatre. A velvet couch. A collapsed stack of books. A skyline – nearly visible is a church steeple- a desk- a chair. It’s an economically cluttered stage- cluttered but not overly so. There is the rumble of a restless city- that city is Dublin.

This is the apartment and office of Ian (Alan Dukes). Since leaving the priesthood Ian has become a father, a boyfriend and a therapist. We see him meet a client- John (Laurence Coy) who is, at first, slightly reluctant about sharing and even how to share his problems with Ian. After some awkward silences and a clumsy oblivious confession that Ian was in fact his third choice due to other therapists not being available- and some more general awkwardness- John begins to talk. John’s awkwardness gives way as he begins to unfurl the pain and guilt he is harbouring since the untimely death of his wife in a car accident- and the events leading up to her death. John’s guilt is understandable and quite natural- but the circumstances a little more supernatural. The ghost of his wife haunts him, and he has been forced to reside in a Bed and Breakfast for peace of mind.

Ian listens and asks questions, and throughout the course of the sessions, John begins to relay more of the story which leads up to her death. In alternate scenes, Ian’s girlfriend Neasa (Caroline Craig) has arrived and is keen to patch things up after a fight and then later, Ian brings a young man, Laurence (Ben Geurens), who is in need of some cash, back to his office- both resulting in a private view of the therapist in need of his own medicine.

We begin to see the power of conversation- and in John’s case- the power of storytelling as the means of exorcising guilt. We see conversations as confessionals between lovers and professionals- all desperate to find a connection and understanding. And we are told the unlikely inner monologues of a man coming to terms with his own failures and his choices and the choices made for him. And all that we see and all we are told culminates in a play which is essentially about the need to move on.

Most impressive in this production is the stunning work of the cast- Caroline Craig is beautifully balanced in both vulnerability and frustration as Neasa, Ben Geurens is suitably detailed and withdrawn as Laurence, Alan Dukes handles both passive and active roles with equal integrity and Laurence Coy is impressively and alarmingly authentic as multifaceted John. This is an absolutely fantastic play by Conor McPherson- filled with the jarring awkward hiccups of everyday communication- abandoned thoughts, blurted revelations, surprising confessions, heavy manipulations and surreptitious subtext. The perfomances are clear, concise and evenly handled by director Nicholas Pollack who allows the actors time and space to tell the story… a story which I found to be utterly engaging and endlessly surprising.

Alisa Paterson’s set is metaphorical for this highly naturalistic conversation piece and some may find this a little incongruous or perhaps the production values a little low. However it is the story, not the set we are there to see – and the story certainly packs a punch.Underscored by Jeremy Silver’s sly humming sound design, and complimented by Allan Hiron’s lighting design this is very much a play to be heard- and those who are lulled into the rhythm of language will appreciate the end of the play even more.

Shining City is an exceptional piece of writing, uncovering the dark corners of a lonely city… full of twists and turns and is a beautiful examination of guilt and yearning for meaningful connection. This is a truly entertaining night of theatre.

Shining City By Conor McPherson
25 November – 19 December 2009
Monday – Saturday 7pm
Saturday Matinee 19 December 2pm
Shining City runs for approximately 95 minutes with no interval

SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross NSW 2011

Full $30; Seniors $26; Concession/Preview/Matinee $23;
Group$26; Under 30 $26 (Monday-Thursday)
$15 Rush tickets available every Monday evening
Phone bookings 02 8002 4772