Written on the back of her Kit Denton Fellowship (an award granted to a writer who demonstrates courage) and
in 2009, Suzie Miller’s Transparency is a play which has already lived a full life before premiering in her home country. There is something very strange about Australia and their treatment of new plays, their playwrights and the commissioning of new works. And I won’t linger too long on this in case I overwhelm my response to this play with too much context. But I must say there is something inherently brave about being a playwright – you write without guarantee of anyone seeing, reading your play, you write without guaranteed income, you dare to tell stories that may not want to be heard, and you may not necessarily be liked, appreciated or admired for airing some difficult questions to the more comfortable members of society (ie middle class theatre goers). And Suzie Miller’s Transparency is drenched in bravery and courage… right through to it’s bones.

As we descend to our seats, the York Theatre at the Seymour Centre – usually a wide arcing thrust stage is reduced to it’s most intimate of modes – curtained and secretive. Before us a wall of x-ray images of skeletons. It’s ominous. The poster outside the theatre is ominous… and if you have read the material about the play… you know you’re in for an ominous time. That is the problem with so much theatre – the marketing can sometimes open the play up so much that any true spontaneous, live moments are pre-empted and expected… and there is barely the element of surprise or discovery for the audience.

However, Miller’s play opens with a sexy rough and tumble between Simon (Glenn Hazeldine) and Jess (Amy Matthews), a married couple very much in love. What we see in the opening scene is the gentle intmacy based on trust. Before long we see a relationship of a different sort exposed between a journalist, Lachlan (Ed Wightman) and his wife (and Simon’s Co-worker) Camilla (Anna Lise Phillips). It is the disappearance of a two year old boy which triggers shadows from Simon’s past to emerge in this love story – and for the question to be raised – can you really know someone? And what are the unspoken conditions put on love?

The production is not without its unevenesses – which may have to do with the logistics of footfall/ travel onto stage… it is a large stage, and a difficult space. However, this production will be transplanted to other venues (next stop Riverside Theatre?) and that may change and develop. What is important in the production of new work as far as I am concerned are two things – the writing and the performances – everything else can seem like a distraction.

The writing is clean and clear -moments between characters are presented in increments – and are slowly dissolved like a literary game of Jenga. As an audience we know the story, and the dangers within the story – and it is not about the what but the how of denouement. Miller’s writing offers enough suspense and detail for interest to build momentum and I found myself tense, my stomach wound tightly as I sat in my seat, waiting for everything to fall apart. The inevitable is unravelled, the truth is revealed, and then concealed – but like a horror that can’t be unseen, the information we hold in our memories changes everything, absolutely everything within us. I found myself wishing things were different. I found myself frightened and angry and skeptical. I found myself flooded with compassion. And that is the mark of fine writing.

In particular it is the work of the actors which is so effecting in this production. And there is no denying this one of the most talented casts on stage in Sydney at the moment with each actor invested, present and ready. Struck dumb, I watched as Simon struggled to articulate, struggled to share, to confess the burden of the truth about his past. I have seen Hazeldine in countless productions, and have worked with him various incantations, but never, NEVER before have I been so completely swept up by his performance. Powerless, I believed every moment, every decision. Every action. Beautiful, terrifying, mesmerizing work.

It is a triumph of The Seymour Centre to put it’s money and resources where it is most needed, and I can do nothing but applaud the bravery of Tim Jones to put a difficult play (in subject matter and tone) on a difficult stage… I can also do nothing but recommend you see this play, not because it’s new, (or written by an Australian, or by a woman) but because it is powerful and intense confrontation of ideas. And if that’s not enough, see it because the cast are brilliant.