The Edge @ Blue Room Theatre
Directed by Levon J. Polinelli (Catface Productions)
Starring Claudia Van Zeller, Emerson Brophy, Grace Johnson, Madeline Shaw, Philip Lynch, and Tate Bennett
Thursday, May 31, 2018
In delivering the Australian premiere of Nick Choo’s The Edge, Catface Productions does an incredible job at interpreting a compelling story exploring the multifaceted nature of relationships and death. First presented in Malaysia in 2013, The Edge centres on Josh, a struggling artist and depressive young man who expresses the desire to kill himself. In doing so, six people connected to Josh are forced to analyse their relationships with him, one another, and more importantly themselves. What makes it more haunting is the fact that the character of Josh is never seen by the audience. His presence is visceral yet only inferred by the mind of the viewer.
Themes of suicide and mental health are addressed head-on in this play. Most of the dialogue examines each character’s past interactions with Josh and the series of events leading to his demise. Polinelli’s direction gives the dialogue the characterisation required for its full effect. Each character is so relatable and their emotions are so understandable and transcendent across contexts. The play shows how interconnected we all truly are and the everlasting consequences of our actions on the people in our lives.
Various flashbacks through Josh’s life ranging from infancy to adulthood transport you through time, developing his character in various contexts. Josh’s mother Lilly, and brother Jarod (played by Claudia Van Zeller and Emerson Brophy respectively), skilfully portray the familial struggle to halt Josh’s descent into deep depression. Josh relies on his brother for protection, support and fiscal gain. Jarod, frustrated with the dependence on fraternity, kicks Josh out and reinforces his major insecurities. Lilly is oblivious to Jarod’s needs, instead emphasising Josh’s safety, and inadvertently triggering Josh’s moods by informing her of her marriage to a man Josh does not approve of, whilst criticising Josh’s current relationship with his girlfriend, Deanna. Deanna faces the difficulties of his mood swings, a spontaneous marriage proposal, and the temptation of Josh’s best friend, Ryan.
The work is cleverly staged in an intimate space in Blue Room Theatre, and the scenes are mostly successful in evoking intense emotive states. The set is a sparse, yet innovative – viewing platform overlooking a simple cafe table with two chairs and takes on the familiarity of a neighbourhood tale, reinforcing the relatable content. The lighting was employed spectacularly, using different colours only to highlight the emotionality of each scene.
Standout performers include Van Zeller, Brophy and Johnson, who plays Josh’s colleague and acquaintance, April. The only shortcoming of this production was the portrayal of Deanna (Madeline Shaw). Shaw’s role was significant but her performance fell flat in comparison to the portrayal of other characters. This aside, the piece was strong and well-executed. With this performance, Catface Productions delivers a refreshingly honest and captivating story that strikes a chord with anyone who has ever experienced mental illness through the eyes of a close friend or family member, and brings one through a wide spectrum of emotions within a two hour time period.
Photos by Shaun Ferraloro