I can’t help but support those who are brave enough to put their money where their mouth is – or their heart is -and produce their own show. Each year the Tap Gallery (truly the most independent of theatre spaces in Sydney as it is uncurated, unfunded and largely a “space for hire”) houses a carousel of enthusiastic self-producers who have a story to tell or project they are burning to present. I have many reservations about the Tap Gallery as a venue – mainly in relation to safety and comfort of the performers – but on rare occasions I will brave Palmer street to attend a show.

On this occasion, I attended opening night on request of Jay Duncan (an actor I know from Stories from the 428) – taking two guests. I was generously provided with two complimentary tickets I purchased a ticket for a friend and at $28 I think it was one of the steeper independent tickets I have paid for in recent times – even above B-Sharp. No physical tickets /tax invoice was issued by the burly blokes at the box and a program which was sweetly posted to me post-opening night. Clearly a passion project – and a first time endeavor.

Two men wait in a blank space. One without a shoe, one without memory. Before long, dialogue swings and twists as the audience and the characters are trying to make sense of the world – who are they, where are they – and then the question the play is based on – how did they get here. In clipped dialogue Driver (Paul Hooper) and Pedestrian (Jay Duncan) see-saw back and forth man-wrestle over memory, status and a mutual friend. Very much in the tradition of Satre’s No Exit, but with twinges of Beetlejuice or The Interview – this is, like many first plays which are self produced – in need of a re-drafting and rigorous interrogation. The heart is is the right place – but the politics are overt, didactic. Characters are sometimes too aloof – and the situation is very theoretical. The intensity of the portrayal is visceral – and there is a blast of energy from Pedestrian – what is impressive is the maintenance of this intensity – because as far as character journey – there isn’t a vast amount of light and shade – it’s clear who we are to like, and who we are to feel sympathetic for. In this situation I wonder what would it mean to swap the casting of these roles? How would that change the dynamic – how would our empathy develop for both characters? I also wonder what it would be like if the “voice” was a man’s voice – would the threat of interrogation seem harsher? For me there are many questions that could be raised in the story – and many that don’t need to be answered… at least not by the characters themselves.

I deeply admire the courage and conviction of Jay Duncan to put himself, his debut script out into the creative consciousness of his audience. I also know the deep commitment it takes to produce your own show, on your own in an unpopular venue – and the liberation and the limitations that has.
I hope that regardless of how the finances of the play washes up – that all the creative forces invested in this show continue to be curious, insatiable creators and brave in their offers to audiences. I also hope that they have the confidence and courage to seek support, development, and a rigorous team. The intent and the energy and the vision is there – it just needs refinement, support and time to mature.