Brink Productions and English Touring Theatre. Adelaide Festival. 28 Feb 2013

“This is a play, not a documentary…” explains Bryony Lavery in her writers notes at the front of the program; and this is absolutely true. Thursday is not a moment by moment factual account of Gillian Hicks’ experiences during the 2005 London bombing, but rather  an “honourably transmogrified… friable fiction.” It is a collection of experiences; a show which looks primarily at the fragility of life, examining the human experience through the daily actions and emotions of an unrelated group of people in the lead up to the tragic event.

Structurally similar to the film Magnolia (a mosaic of interrelated characters whose stories converge) Thursday opens with six different groups of characters waking in their home(s) on the morning of the bombing. Each of the players begins to reveal their modus operandi for the day, weaving dialogue, story and the shared space into a tapestry which gradually reveals their worth. I say gradually on purpose; this production is quite slow to start, and the abstract nature of its construction requires dedication and focus from the audience in order to keep up.

Once the characters leave their home(s) and head off to the tube station the wordplay and the action becomes truly captivating. Although the characters are not familiar to each other, Lavery has written them interacting and sharing in streams of consciousness; it is not uncommon for 2 characters, who do not know each other, to talk at one another revealing the other’s thoughts and feelings through omniscient narration. This is often effective, but occasionally these monologues run on far too long.

Visually this production is spectacular. Designer, Dan Potra, has captured the true essence of levels in theatre without going up. Potra creates fantastic depth and uses every inch of the stage from the cyclorama to the foot lights. The walls of the various spaces are lined with stretched scrim fabric which becomes translucent when back lit (excellent lighting design by Colin Grenfell); this allows the audience to see back into the rooms beyond the front wall and contributes wonderfully to the feeling of naturalism.  

On stage, live piano is played by musician/composer, Quentin Grant. The soundscape is gentle yet evocative and never overpowers the action. Director, Chris Drummond has worked well with the ensemble of players who include Paul Blackwell, Emma Handy, Martin Hutson, Lena Kaur, Tom Mothersdale, Kate Mulvany, Nathan O’Keefe, Deidre Rubenstein and Rochenda Sandall.

Thursday is an excellent show. My only disappointment was with the venue, which is not well designed to carry sound. The actor’s voices really echoed in the Norwood concert hall, and I couldn’t help but wish I was watching it in the Dunstan Playhouse where true intimacy can be achieved between the audience and the stage. That being said, if you haven’t already made plans to see this work, I urge you to make time to check out this world premiere.

Paul Rodda

When: 25 Feb to 16 Mar
Where: Norwood Concert Hall