Dead Centre/Sea Wall, two monologues from a collaboration between acclaimed Australian and British playwrights Tom Holloway and Simon Stephens, opened at the Old Fitz Theatre in Woolloomooloo on Thursday night.
This world premier in Sydney is the result of another partnership between Red Line Productions and Red Stitch Actors Theatre.
Dead Centre, the first monologue, has the scintillating Rosie Lockhart delivering a captivating performance as anguished Englishwoman Helen, who comes to Australia to escape her troubled British home life. Helen tells the story of how this escape to ‘Down under’ leads to a mental breakdown in front of Uluru. Lockhart flawlessly affects a British accent and the scattered behaviour of a woman trying to outrun something.
Dead Centre is tactfully mysterious, luring the audience with snippets of information yet making them aware there is more to be told.
The monologue that follows, Sea Wall, complements Dead Centre and dispels a lot of the mystery. Ben Prendergast (Alex) plays Helen’s estranged partner who recounts the tragic event that tore the two apart and found them on opposite sides of the world.
Sea Wall tells us what Helen is running away from in England and why when faced with the spectacle of Uluru she suffers a nervous breakdown.
Under the guidance of director Julian Meyrick, Prendergast’s performance is raw compared to Lockhart’s tender portrayal, and the acting duo ironically make the perfect couple.
Soft, minimalist lighting (Matthew Adey) and sounds (Ian Moorhead) allow the play to focus on the strength of the performances and the script. Both are brilliantly paced, without a superfluous word.
Together the two monologues complement each other perfectly: the motif of red versus grey, the setting of Australia versus England and the themes of anxiety and frustration versus depression and loss.
This double bill, although running for less than 70 minutes, is serious theatre and will stay with audiences for many days after.
Dead Centre/ Sea Wall, is showing at the Old Fitz theatre, 129 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo from October 20 to November 14.