★★★★

Two plays, both alike in nature, lay their scene in suburban Sydney. The two stories don’t intertwine, yet there is a sense of continuum that washes from the first to the second, as though a stream of consciousness was being threaded as playwright Jane Bodie moved from writing one to the other between 2000 and 2001. Oddly enough, they are presented to us here in the reverse order to which they were written. And yet, Bodie’s themes still remain true – Ride and Fourplay each endeavour to tease out the finer points of identity and delve into relationships both broken and developing.

A black stage, tilting angularly, tips its characters into the audience, forcing the actors to remain sure-footed for fear they (and their characters) may fall into an infinite abyss. It’s a fitting setting for opener, Ride, which finds Joe (Tom O’Sullivan) and Elizabeth (Emma Palmer) waking up naked in Joe’s bed, hungover and unsure of the previous evening’s misdemeanours – if there were any at all.

As Elizabeth toys between staying and leaving over the course of 12 hours, the pair expose themselves to one another – both figuratively and literally – until secrets are exhausted. What begins as a backtrack into the evening’s alcohol-fuelled adventures becomes a tear-stained window into the past, as we discover traces of the woman Joe used to live with still haunting his home, and Elizabeth’s embarrassment at attending her ex-lover’s wedding still heavy on her mind. It’s brutal, it’s charming, it’s shameless and it’s alluring.

As intermission ends, the stage is cleared to leave only an empty black canvas for the four players of Fourplay to fill. Introductions are slow. The relationship between Tom (O’Sullivan) and Alice (Gabrielle Scawthorn) is beginning to tear at the seams as he falls prey to the seductive wiles of Natasha (Palmer), his leading lady in an upcoming play. A former actress herself, Alice is now a carer, but as Tom slowly pulls away, she is drawn toward Jack (Aaron Glenane), an awkward yet intriguing co-worker.

With nothing else onstage but their words and actions, it is here that the fourth wall becomes a mirror. Characters stare deeply into the eyes of the audience as they discuss and debate, fall apart and fornicate. It’s a beautifully powerful and utterly confronting form of choreography that holds the audience to the bosom of this heavily emotive and smartly written work.

Ride & Fourplay are playing at Eternity Playhouse until Sunday October 4.

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