Reunion (David Mamet) and A Kind of Alaska (Harold Pinter): Sydney Theatre Company at the Wharf Theatre

In their different ways, I found both Reunion and A Kind of Alaska somewhat unsatisfying.

Of the two, I think I enjoyed Reunion more. Both performances (Justine Clarke and Robert Menzies) were strong, and it was a wonderful use of awkward words and uncomfortable silences. Unlike some of the other plays we’ve seen, in this one, the director (Andrew Upton) clearly made a deliberate decision not to use American accents, or even nationality-neutral ones. This play was very definitely done in Australian. I don’t know if the text was changed at all (though I suspect not, as there were one or two slightly jarring US references), or if the character of Bernie was in any way subverted by this change, but overall I thought it worked very well with Bernie as a blue-collar, rather inarticulate Aussie Bloke. But although the production was good, it was still ultimately unsatisfying becuase it wasn’t really a story. It was just a snippet – a brief window into a moment of these two people’s lives – but with no real plot development or climax. Obviously that was the intention, and it was not uninteresting, but somehow it just wasn’t quite … enough.

A Kind of Alaska, on the other hand, did build up to a climax. But – and I don’t know if this was the performances or the play itself – at no time did I care as much about any of the characters as I did about Caroline and Bernie in Reunion. Possibly it also suffered from the fact that the last play we saw was Woman in Mind. Because Deborah in Alaska was in a not dissimilar situation from Susan in Woman in Mind – for different reasons, they were both in a world that wasn’t making sense to them. But with Susan, you saw everything from her perspective – you were literally inside her head with her – whereas Deborah was at more of a distance, and it was harder to engage with her, or with either of the other two characters. It’s probably not a fair comparison to make, as the two playwrights were aiming for totally different effects, but it’s one that I couldn’t help making, and which probably had a detrimental effect on my reaction to A Kind of Alaska.

Post a Comment