Reviewed by Nicole Patterson
‘Life Without Me,’ is an accessible play by Australian playwright, Daniel Keene.
The action takes place in an unremarkable hotel that is stuck in the late 70’s to early 80’s, with décor that now seems archaic. The set design is instrumental in conveying this story that uses symbolism such as an out of order lift, throughout to give a sense of being stuck in time. The set includes a first floor, a space that allows for more reflection by the characters.
Directed by Cathy Hunt, the play begins when John (Drew Fairley) is literally blown into the hotel on a rainy night to be confronted by a prickly desk clerk, called Nigel (Martin Broome) who scrutinises his every word. We learn that John has been trying to get out of the city for the past three days but can’t seem to find a way out.
Nigel suggests there are two kinds of people who come to the hotel, ‘those that know where they are, where they’ve been, where they’re going, and those that don’t.’
The hotel has no manager, no pen, not much in the way of food apart from some burnt toast that we were able to smell. There is hardly any traffic through the hotel except those that seem to get there by accident or fate?
Those inhabiting the hotel in this two hour play seem stuck in a rut. There is Alice (Julie Hudspeth), who has been living there for a while, a cotton salesman Ray (Laurence Coy), a married couple Tom (Brendan Donoghue), and Ellen (Anne Wilson) and Nigel’s forgetful mother, Mrs Spence (Annie Byron).
A nice set up for an existential play that has signs of Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, where it feels like nothing much is happening, but thanks to some wonderful sub-text there is plenty going on. Keene himself said he was interested in characters ‘who live moment by moment, allowing the soul to surface.’ This production is by ‘Illuminate Educate’, who have executed a play that not only does this but is entertaining, with sharp performances by all.
All of the characters transform from beginning to end, and the professionalism of the actors encapsulates this.
The play appears naturalistic, with great transitions from night to day and sounding that reflects this thanks to a great creative team.
Produced by: Anne Wilson
Lighting Design: Christopher Page
Sound Design: Ross Johnston
Stage Manager: Georgiane Deal
Set & Costume Design: Eloise Kent
The Seymour Centre 9th – 16th February
Photo by Stephen Reinhardt