Closer - by Patrick Marber

8 - 18 August 2007. Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts

Alice / Producer Kathryn Fray
Anna Jacki Mison
Dan Christopher Sommers
Larry Norman Doyle
Director Mark Conaghan
Set Design Kitty Taube
Lighting Design /
Production Assistant
Hamish Clift
Assistant Director Michelle Miall
Marketing and Publicity Emily Rowe
Stage Manager Tim Wallace
ASM Elliott Marsh
Production Assistant Dirk Hoult
Wardrobe designer Raynor Blazely
Audio Designer Matt Hickey
Stills Photographer Morgan Roberts 

Images of Closer - August 2007

Kathryn Fray and Christopher Sommers
Photo: Morgan Roberts
Jackie Mison and Christopher Sommers
Photo: Morgan Roberts
Jacki Mison and Norman Doyle
Photo: Morgan Roberts
Norman Doyle
Photo: Morgan Roberts
Norman Doyle and Christopher Sommers
Photo: Morgan Roberts
Kathryn Fray and Norman Doyle
Photo: Morgan Roberts
Kathryn Fray, Christopher Sommers and Jacki Mison
Photo: Morgan Roberts
Kathryn Fray, Christopher Sommers and Jacki Mison
Photo: Morgan Roberts
Kathryn Fray and Norman Doyle
Photo: Morgan Roberts
Christopher Sommers, Norman Doyle and Jacki Mison
Photo: Morgan Roberts
Norman Doyle and Christopher Sommers
Photo: Morgan Roberts
Christopher Sommers and Kathryn Fray
Photo: Morgan Roberts


Closer - Review - ABC

Reviews CloserCloser is an uncomfortable play about the interwoven lives of four rather unattractive and selfish people living in London, their loves, their obsessions and ultimately their desperate loneliness.

The inaugural production of new production company 23rd Productions, this play represents something of a triumph. It is well cast and very well directed by Mark Conaghan and, considering the constraints imposed by space in the Metro Arts Studio and by budgets, the play is yet another example, like The Kursk of what can be achieved with a strong cast and a talented and imaginative director.

The four characters in this play lie and cheat their way through their quest to find real love and the ultimate emptiness of their lives is well captured in Patrick Marber’s beautifully evocative writing. This, in turn, is well understood and translated to the stage by director Mark Conaghan, ultimately being interpreted by the very talented cast with a full understanding of what and who they are.

Norman Doyle, as the dermatologist Larry, brings and depth of understanding to his character that is hard to fault. Kathryn Fray as Alice is simply superb. Jacki Mison as Anna and Christopher Sommers as Dan likewise bring a real depth to their characters and the whole combination, as I indicated, is simply electric to. The characterisation is really quite unnerving in this piece – you can’t help but hope that you never find yourself entangled with a group of people like this, these people are so very real.

The composite set, again quite minimalistic, is well designed by Kitty Taube and clearly reflects the experience she has gained working in some of Brisbane’s leading art galleries and museums.

There are times when the extraneous noise from other activities does tend to impinge on the performance and this is an on-going problem at Metro Arts but you find yourself so caught up in this messy tale that for most of the time you even forget you are actually watching a play at all and get transported into the very unattractive world of these very unhappy people.

If this is an indication of the quality of play we can expect from 23rd Productions then I really believe that Brisbane is in for something of a treat in the years to come as they grow and develop.

Closer is not a play for those who are looking for a bit of light entertainment. It is gritty and contains scenes that may offend some but I for one believe it is well worth going to see.

That’s two play of real quality running at Metro Arts at the same time. Bravo! Let’s have more.

- Nigel Munro-Wallis


Closer - Review -

THE birth of a new theatre company is a regular occurrence in Brisbane but usually after a short burst of enthusiasm they fade into oblivion. Producing is an unforgiving and expensive business. Often the companies don’t deserve to survive: their production values are too amateur slanted. Only rarely does an opening production shine with professional polish. Such a production is the one from the newly formed 23rd Productions. Its opening show was a knockout.

The play, Closer, is a brilliantly scripted piece of British writing that dissects the lives of two mismatched couples in London. It was first produced in the 1990s and was made into a movie that starred Julia Roberts. There is a lot of swearing, both the “F” word and the dreaded “C” words litter the dialogue, but unlike so many “language” plays, the words ran trippingly off the tongues of extremely gritty and real characters and did not jolt the rhythm of the piece.

The characters are Anna, the sharp and brittle photographer who steals images of unsuspecting strangers; Daniel, the soft and selfish obituary writer; Alice, a strange young girl who makes her life up as she goes along; and chat-room Lothario, dermatologist Dr Larry. They were four completely contrasting characters who initially become entangled by accident. They are all complex characters too, characters that need fine acting skills to create – and director Mark Conaghan did a marvellous job of casting. Every character was finely honed and perfectly presented by one of the best quartet ensemble I’ve seen in a long time. Kathryn Fray, one of the talents behind the formation of the company, was marvellous at Alice. She made us laugh with her strange philosophies, annoyed by her devotion to the older and feckless Daniel and cry with her heartbreak. Also impressive was Jacki Mison as Anna. She has a huge talent and plays the upper-class photographer beautifully. She showed us all the facets of Anna from her cool outer persona to the tangled inner turmoil of her artistic personality.

And the men were equally as impressive. They brought the two contrasting characters to life and made them utterly believable.Christopher Sommers was Daniel, who moved from an unambitious newspaper obituary writer to newly published author without ever losing his desperate indecision or having an original thought. The final star of the show was Norman Doyle who played Larry the dermatologist. Here was a man who knew what he wanted – or thought he did. He was fickle, weak and a sucker for a good line and obsessed with sex. But, although each character was utterly different they all had the one linking vice – selfishness. Each actor worked with and played off the others in duo, triplicate and quartet with perfect timing whether comedy or dramatic – and there is an even mix of both in the script.

The play is episodic, but moves quickly and easily through a period of several years as the four strangers meet and become entangled in each others lives with increasing complications. Daniel meets Alice after she is involved in an accident while crossing the road. He takes her to hospital where they briefly meet Larry, who checks out the cut on her knee. Alice is flirty and overtly sexual towards her saviour. Anna comes into the action when she is called to take publicity photographs of Daniel when his book is published. Daniel has been living with Alice for three years and has based his book on her version of her life. Larry meets Anna after one of the funniest scenes in the play. The good doctor is surfing the web and logs onto a sex chat site at the same time as Daniel. Daniel pretends to be a girl and gives his name as Anna. The two men sit on opposite sides of the stage chatting on their computers while the text comes up on the wall behind them. Daniel coaxes Larry to talk dirty and finally convinces him to meet the next day at the London Aquarium while wearing his white doctors’ coat. By coincidence the real Anna is there and so comes more wonderful situation comedy. The quartet become more and more involved, relationships intertwine and blur, and then disintegrate again and the comedy and tragedy unfolds in a gripping and entertaining manner.
It really is a production worth seeing from a company that deserves to live long and prosper.

Closer continues in The Studio until August 18 Wednesday-Saturday at 7.30pm.

ERIC SCOTT August 10, 2007