In another mesmeric Australian premier, Red Stitch actors’ theatre presents The Realistic Joneses, a poignant story about two suburban couples flung together as they face a series of life choices, every moment, every day.
Tackling a sombre topic with levity, this full length comedy drama leaves you with countless questions about our mortality, our terror of the unknown. This dread translates into the way we deal with grave illness and how we choose to include or exclude those dearest to us.
With exceptional lighting—mostly dusk, a modest stage and a four-cast crew, director Julian Meyrick beautifully renders the vision of an ordinary and realistic world full of imperfection. It is a funny and sad story that hooks you start to finish in the awkwardness of human conversation around things that matter most. The words of Pony Jones (Ella Caldwell) to neighbour John Jones (Justin Hosking) encapsulate this ineptness: No. Wait… I like your voice. But don’t touch me or say anything.
Bob Jones (Neil Pigot) is on a downhill spiral in his illness but emerges a clear audience darling with his trouble seeing the bigger picture, his very detail-orientation, his social inelegance, his struggle with figures of speech. When wife Jennifer (Sarah Sutherland) accuses him of behaving like a little boy, he says he is not a boy. How so? demands Jennifer. Because I am tall, he says. It is this type of honest but inappropriate observation, coupled with the difficulty adjusting volume, the clumsiness and obsession… that endears Bob to the crowd.
The applause tells it all. Encore, encore. The Realistic Joneses is the work of a great writer. American playwright Will Eno hits the mark. He steers clear of over dramatisation and, in a moving and uncanny way, makes the mundane a most potent thing to witness. The production is human and clever and heartfelt and detached. It is sad, so very sad, and wholly marvellous and funny.
The only criticism here, if only to be impartial, is that the casts’ accents—except for Sutherland’s natural American tongue—sometimes slip. Now and then even endearing Bob displaces his ‘Belgianism’. But for the profoundness of the performance, this is a picky observation that leaves me ashamed. No dialogue is wasted. Each utterance or silence compels the story along.
The care with which the performance is crafted, the vision and jocularity in matters so grave, blend to make this a truly dazzling production.
Now showing at Red Stitch until 28 May.
Featuring Ella Caldwell, Sarah Sutherland, Justin Hosking and Neil Pigot.
Set and Costumes: Greg Clarke
Lighting: Bronwyn Pringle
Composition and Sound: Ian Moorhead
Stage Manager: Natasha Marich
Assistant Stage Manager: Dylan Lines
Image credit: Teresa Noble
About Eugen Bacon
Eugen M. Bacon studied at Maritime Campus, less than two minutes walk from The Royal Observatory of the Greenwich Meridian. A computer graduate mentally re-engineered into creative writing, Eugen has a PhD in writing. She has published over 100 short stories and creative articles, and has in work a creative non-fiction book and a literary speculative novel. Her short stories are published in journals, magazines & anthologies worldwide. Eugen is editor of MELBOURNE Magazine and sub-editor of FICTION Magazine at The Australia Times.
Profile: View Eugen's profile here