Monday, 2 June 2014

Daylight Saving: Unrealised Potential

Daylight Saving
Tempo Theatre Inc
10-25 May 2014

Every autumn when the clocks go back (if you live in the half of Australia in which they do), you get a ‘free’ hour. What do you do with it? And if something happens in that magical in-between time, does it really happen? These are questions which are raised in Nick Enright’s Daylight Saving, or should be.

Felicity (Rina Ornorato) owns a successful restaurant but is unhappy in love as her husband, Tom (Bill Kolentsis), neglects her in favour of the young tennis-player, Jason Strutt (John Brennan), whom he manages. When Tom abandons Felicity on their wedding anniversary, she sets up a romantic assignation with Joshua (Jason Morton) an old flame, over for a brief visit from America. The planned candlelit dinner, however, is constantly interrupted by her busy-body mother, Bunty (Joan White), and their nosy neighbour, Stephanie (Nicky Lyn Hunter).

As the seeds of deception are sown and the resulting confusion is reaped, the action resembles a French farce, with conservative morality winning through. The pace is too slow as though the actors are favouring clear diction (and every word is clearly heard) to speedy delivery. This becomes a problem as the reason for the dissatisfaction in Felicity and Tom’s marriage is that they haven’t got time for one another, which isn’t portrayed in this somewhat staid version, directed by Michael Weston.

As well as lack of pace, there is also a sameness of tone, so the stakes of involvement don’t seem high enough. Felicity is potentially about to discard a marriage in favour of a fling, but this isn’t given the magnitude it deserves; there is no distinction between her annoyance at an uninvited dinner-guest, and her frustration that husband doesn’t love her. She does well, however, to try and maintain the cut and thrust between her prospective suitors – it takes three to tango in this instance, and unfortunately both Kolentsis and Morton are rather leaden-footed.

The play has wonderful minor characters, and Hunter and White revel in their roles. Hunter brings a neurotic lack of awareness to the insensitive Stephanie with swift movements to match her snap judgements. White, meanwhile, imbues Bunty with an equally oblivious calm and threatens to steal the scene with her assured authority. Brennan has the whiny teenager shtick down pat, but his stooped posture and slouching gait are ill-fitting with his supposed athletic prowess as Jason Strutt – the clue should be in the name.

Much mention is made in the text of the beautiful moon, romantic light and the Pittwater (Sydney North Shore) location, but very little of this is evident in the setting. The view of the patio and outdoor area is limited, and it would have helped to hear the sound of the waves to heighten the ambience. The staging is purely functional and misses an opportunity to be atmospheric. The moon and tides are said to affect hormones, and yet they are timeless and inevitable. The performance of this play is solid if not spectacular, and the dream-like potential of daylight saving remains unrealised.

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