Bright Half Life - Meraki Arts Bar (NSW)
Presented by Theatre Travels Productions during Sydney WorldPride. Directed by Rosie Niven.
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
Meraki Arts Bar, Darlinghurst Until Sunday 19th February
- Bright Half Life is filled with heart, featuring authentic characters who are both flawed and full, despite the rough edges of the production -
Told through a series of vignettes and (to quote a famous Doctor) some “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey” playing around from its writer, Tanya Barfield, Bright Half Life takes the audience through an intimate exploration of relationships. Presented during Sydney WorldPride and situated in the intimate theatre room in the hottest new Arts Bar in Sydney, Meraki, the audience are led on one couple’s journey, told like a puzzle and written with sincerity and heart.
Director Rosie Niven brings to the forefront of this production the authenticity of a relationship from its two female leads. Barfield’s script is purposefully disjointed, offering the audience snippets into the relationship of Vicky and Erica that ultimately glue together to tell one lifespan of a story. Along the way we’re hit with extraordinarily prevalent discussions of tokenism, queer love and cultural prejudice.
Splitting Vicky and Erica’s story between past and present, we’re shown the Vicky and Erica of Now (Loretta Kung and Lisa Hanssens) and the Vicky and Erica of Then (Genevieve Craig and Samantha Lambert). Beginning with a messy declaration of love, through to their initial meeting and blossoming romance, an anxiety-filled ferris wheel ride, the marriage of their child, and ultimately their separation and reconnection.
Photos by Becky Matthews
What’s most captivating about Barfield’s work, and what Niven has harnessed, is the truth that is shown in their relationship. Vicky and Erica’s love story shows them to be flawed, to be foolish, to be in love. The fact that it’s a queer relationship highlights that the heteronormative ideals of love and relationships shown through film, TV and books, is in fact universal and not owned by one sector of society.
Bright Half Life highlights the beauty and fragility of love, told with authenticity through a queer lens
The pairing of Kung and Hanssens with their younger counterparts, Craig and Lambert, works perfectly to tell the story throughout. Nivens has matched the pairs up with a keen eye and her direction with the actors has been focused to reflect their growth as characters across time, whilst still being fluid across scenes. This mostly works. At times the character’s traits and little ticks seem to drop and lose their connection and impact, however the pairs matching costumes helps to solidify the air of realism surrounding them.
As the Vicky and Erica of Then, Craig and Lambert’s chemistry builds throughout the production. Lambert brings a higher degree of humour and energy to the piece which contrasts Craig’s more subdued and grounded Vicky. Each of them provide moments of tenderness in supporting each other and by the end of the piece, you become invested in where their relationship could possibly go next.
Where the production suffers is in its scene changes. Barfield’s text jumps erratically at times before one scene can fully end, and later comes back to recreate the scene later with added context. It was difficult to see where one scene changed and the other began due to a similar direction at the start of key vignettes separated only by a dim or glow of the lamps on the floating shelves of the set. Capri Harris’ lighting design mostly works within the confines of the set, although a further clarity in Nevin’s direction would have found clearer and greater impact in working with the swiftness of Barfield’s script.
As a roughly handled but intimate piece of theatre, Bright Half Life highlights the beauty and fragility of love, told with authenticity through a queer lens. Its characters, who both hold their own flaws and generosity, are a gorgeous representation of this told through Barfield’s words.
Rosie Niven - Director - She/Her
Genevieve Craig - Vicky Then - She/Her
Loretta Kung - Vicky Now - She/Her
Samantha Lambert - Erica Then - She/Her
Lisa Hanssens - Erica Now - She/Her
James Ong - Stage Manager - He/Him
Akesiu Ongo Poitaha - Sound Designer - She/Her
Capri Harris - Lighting Designer - She/Her
Carly Fisher - Producer - She/Her