Jump into life – break free – that’s me trying to do it – the water was very cold!
‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.’ Henry Thoreau.
I left ‘Absent Friends’ feeling elated and despairing.
I wanted to hold Diana (brilliant actor Michelle Doake) and whisper in her ear – find your song, join the mounted police and be whatever you can be. It hurt to see this woman who had so much potential say she wasn’t clever like her husband. She accepted his affairs. It was okay for her children to be sent to boarding school which they hated because her husband determined it. She missed her children. She filled her life, but it was hollow.
Diana (Michelle Doake) emotionally powers across the stage trying to survive a life which is like a prison, created by social expectations of the way a woman has to behave, conform, serve.
It broke my heart.
Then there was Marge (Queenie Van de Zandt), matronly, over weight, a nurturer, who like Diana, had so much to give, but was trapped into service to her husband, who did not even allow her the gift of children or anything really. Her visit to her friend Diana was an imposition that he scuttled by not coming, calling her repeatedly, demanding she stays by his side. But Marge is so much more that a servant to her husband’s needs.
I love Marge and like with Diana, I wanted to whisper in her ear – ‘Be you – you’re amazing. Show us who you are.”
The men are no better off. Paul (Richard Sydenham), the controlling, manipulative, ‘successful’ husband who dominates Diana with sarcasm, has an empty life. His destruction of her, does not fulfill him. He has valueless sweaty affairs. Unwilling and unable to share a partnership with his wife, he ends up the loser in a loveless existence.
John (Brian Meegan), the frightened husband of Evelyn (Jessica Sullivan) a modern young woman with contempt for all men, is also trapped and lost.
Colin (Darren Gilshenan) whose fiance drowned, is the ray of hope. He understands loss and love, and identifies the potential all these characters started out with. It was bitter-sweet to see through his eyes that Diana was vivacious and beautiful and could have been anything. Marge was warm and loving. John had a heart. Paul was so smart and could have lead others. Society’s roles and expectations, have twisted the potential of these characters, creating hollow ‘men’.
There is so much in this re-visioned 1974s play, brilliantly directed by Mark Kilmurry and brilliantly performed by a cast of outstanding Australian actors.
Loved the special treat of the authentic 1970s set design by Anna Gardiner. It was like walking down memory lane. Fabulous.
It’s was a night of entertainment, rollicking laughter, satire, farce, leaving you elated, gutted, thinking and empowered to go out and follow your dreams.
Just see it!
Bookings: Ensemble Theatre
78 McDougall Street
Kirribilli NSW 2061 Australia