11 May 2013

Review: Scarborough

The Honeytrap
10 May 2013
Brunswick Arts Space
to 18 May

Another new company, another hidden warehouse space and another independent show that's more engaging than anything on our commercial stages this week.

The Honeytrap are a new independent theatre company formed by Melbourne-based creators Loren de Jong Debbie Zukerman, Kasey Gambling, Joanne Redfearn and Celeste Markwell. They've been working together since 2006, formed the company last year and helped to fund their second show, Scarborough, with a Pozible crowd sourcing campaign.

They've also all studied the Meisner method with Wendy Ward and the show has similarities with Ward Theatre's A Death in the Family currently in a warehouse on another side of the city – starting with it being a surprisingly powerful and fascinating piece of theatre with beautifully honest performances.

The Brunswick Arts Space is in a tiny back alley behind Sydney Road and the noise from the back of the shops adds to the atmosphere of being in a tacky seaside hotel room (designed perfectly by Casey-Scott Corless with costumes by Nicholas Mackinnon). The uneasy floor is covered with sand and the audience have no where to hide, sitting on all sides of the square room.

A 30-year-old teacher (Redfearn) is having a relationship with one of her 15-year-old students (Matthew Connell). To celebrate his 16th birthday – it's not statutory rape once they're 16 – she's booked a room in seaside Scarborough, but as he gets ready for a night on the town, she says she wants to stay in.

Directors De Jong and Markwell focus on how the characters see the relationship and its subtle power shifts. And as they are all somewhere between 15 and 30, they bring an emotional empathy to each character that frees the audience to make their own judgements – which are much harder to make when you're watching the character's most private and honest moments.

And if you dare think it's easier to watch because the student is a male, the play is repeated (almost verbatim) with a male teacher (Doug Lyons) and female student (Libby Brockman). Knowing what's coming takes nothing away from the work and allows for re-thinks that focus less on gender.

This play by UK writer Fiona Evans was a hit at the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe when it was just the first couple, but doubled its length at its London season by introducing the repetition; a bloody good choice.

I suggest seeing Scarborough in tandem with How I Learned to Drive (playing a few 100 metres away at the Mechanics Institute) that has a hotel room scene with an uncle celebrating his niece's adult birthday. And if you like the style of Scarborough, head to Footscray for A Death in the Family. As a southern baysider who had to drive across town to all of these venues,  it's easy to park and well worth the time spent in the car (or it's easy to PT it to Brunswick).

Meanwhile, The Honeytrap has caught some attention with this show and it's going to be exciting and interesting to see where they go from here.

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