As the sun slowly sets just over the wall, a cool Sydney breeze blows through the trees, disturbing a fruit bat as it swings from its branch and takes flight, scattering leaves in its wake. The moment marks an utterly perfect beginning to the play, Green Park.
Set and performed in Darlinghurst’s Green Park, the tale is an all too familiar story of boy meets older man on a park bench. With voyeuristic glee the audience watches and listens as this meek and awkwardly strained meet up fills the space. The tension created by the script, direction and performances is palpable – spilling from the park bench and oozing into the grass.
Elias Jamieson Brown’s script gets right to the point, with the characters very quickly establishing their own reasons for meeting and how they want the rest of the evening to go. The dialogue is sharp, quick and masterfully crafted – allowing the characters lines to run over each other’s sentences without ever being jarring.
The story has great wells of depth that mines to create some terrific stakes and genuinely sad moments. There are however times when parts of the story fall short and the work dips into cliche or is derailed with an ill thought through segue. Thankfully the performers are so captivating that you forgive some of the scripts potholes.
Joseph Althouse and Steve Le Marquand deliver a masterclass in acting. Both effortlessly embody their character and never waiver. They were present, attentive and generous with each other – rapidly creating a connection, rhythm and syncopation between these just met strangers.
Steve Le Marquand’s whole body is rigid and fearfully stoke – carrying the weight of years of repression, anxiety and panic. His portrayal of Warren is never calm or relaxed and yet, there are touching moments of empathy and selfless care, allowing the audience to see that Warren is fully aware that the house of cards built around himself is totally of his own making.
Joseph Althouse is the total opposite but is just as likable and relatable, performs Edden with the full force of an actor utterly in control of his craft, bringing an intensity and intelligence to the character. Edden could have easily fallen into an over the top, melodramatic portrayal but forces the audience to see that there is more going on behind the eye of this wide-eyed party boy.
Declan Green’s direction is light but pointed, giving the actors a wide berth to play and take risks, all the while steering the story away from the scripts more mundane territory. The production is so finely tuned that even passers by don’t break the flow or rhythm. Green makes some well earned bold choices with how the actors traverse the park – justifying where and why the journey takes them and always finding a reason to bring them back to a central point.
David Bergman has created a soundscape that is haunting, luscious and deeply moving. The score partners so beautifully with the park’s natural soundscape – lulling the audience into the world of the script, like a lilting lullaby.
Green Park is a wonderful piece of subversive theatre – it does sometimes fall short of digging in deeper and fleshing out certain themes but overall it is gripping, humorous, touching and supremely well performed.
Green Park, Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
Performance: Friday 19 February 2021
Season continues to 6 March 2021
Information and Bookings: www.griffintheatre.com.au (sold out – limited tickets maybe available)
Image: Steve Le Marquand and Joseph Althouse star in Green Park – photo by Brett Boardman
Review: Gavin Roach