Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Are We Awake?

Charles O'Grady in association with bAKEHOUSE Theatre present ARE WE AWAKE?, by Charles O'Grady, in the Kings Cross Theatre, at The Kings Cross Hotel. February 21 - March 3.

This is a new Australian play by Charles O'Grady and is part of a season of plays being presented at the Kings Cross Theatre (KXT) as part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, 2018.

Hypnos (Daniel Monks) and Endymion (Matthew Lee) are two young gay men living in Sydney in a very loving relationship that is expressed in very intimate terms. The love adoration is palpable between the two in the play. Endymion, however, has had an opportunity to work in another city, Melbourne, and is about to leave by plane for a crucial interview, that could resolvedly bring tremendous decisions of upheaval of location for both these young lovers. Now, this is a not an unusual crisis met by many in this contemporary world, but what complicates this particular story is the fact that one of them, Hypnos, has a chronic illness, and such a move will mean a major change for his continuing health support system. The fork-in-the-road, a crucial turning point, is imminent for this relationship. This story, ARE WE AWAKE?, unfolds particularly from Hypnos' point-of-view. The practical needs and the love needs, are intertwined with Hypnos' fear of abandonment.

In the publicity notes to this production we are told:
The play sidesteps conventional disability narrative of tragedy and inspiration, choosing to take a more complex and personal approach to the question of how a marginalised person can navigate a world designed to exclude them. ...

This is a very personal story that engages us with the focus on the 'courage' of Hypnos in dealing with the possibilities of how he may be able to manage his 'fate' alone without Endymion. It is the agony and ultimate ecstasy of this theatre experience. There is in this narrative no mitigated resolution and we are given just a presentation of a possible ending that is full of hope for the mental survival of Hypnos - he does have choices, there are alternatives.

Hypnos is in Greek mythology the personification of Sleep, his twin-brother is Thanatos, the personification of Death, and his children are the personification of Dreams. Endymion is a shepherd, love entranced. Charles O'Grady does not tell us of the interview and its success or not as that is not the issue pursued here, rather it is the questions that the two men are forced to ask themselves: are they holding too tight to their reality, or is what they reach for just a dream?

Are they awake? Truly, awake?

Director, Sarah Hadley, has a firm hand on the story and elicits two strong performances from both her actors in a Design environment by Tilly Robba, that has a telling atmospheric (and practical) influence to the tone of the performance. The Sound Design is remarkably influential in creating the inner surrealistic 'struggles' of Hypnos, and with the Lighting keeps the experience on a keen edge of interest.

Charles O'Grady is a writer of some real insight and ARE WE AWAKE?, in the production hands of this company, is well worth the effort to go see.

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