Written By Tom Davis
Directed by Caroline Stacey
The Street Theatre to 29 November
Review by Len Power 22 November 2015
‘The Chain Bridge’ by Tom Davis involves a Hungarian family in Melbourne in 2010 dealing with the truth about life in Hungary during the Second World War and under Communist rule in the 1950s. The mother believes the past should stay buried but the son wants to know what really happened. In pushing for the truth, horrors emerge through flashbacks that test the relationships around him.
Imogen Keen has designed a spectacular set that uses the entire stage space of The Street theatre. It looks exciting and imaginative but the setting often works against the staging of the play. Many of these scenes get lost in the vast playing space and there are sound problems, too, when the cast are positioned at the back of the set. In addition, the size of the set dwarfs the actors, making this a less involving experience than it should be. Gillian Schwab’s lighting and Kimmo Vennonen’s startling sound effects work very well.
The play consists of many short scenes with the five actors playing multiple roles but always in the same costumes. For example, the mother also plays herself as a child and her daughter-in-law plays the child’s mother. Scenes often occur simultaneously with actors swapping back and forth between characters. It’s an awkward device and confusing at times.
The actors do well, though. Geraldine Turner is impressive as the mother who doesn’t want the truth to be heard. Zsuzsi Soboslay and PJ Williams give strong performances as a Hungarian couple deeply involved with the family and Kate Hosking and Peter Cook give very real performances as the young couple.
Caroline Stacey’s work with the actors’ characterisations is fine but at over two and a half hours the script needs severe cutting. There’s good writing in the 2010 dinner sequences and the conflict of interest between the older generation of people coming from the horrors of war and oppression and their children who want to know what really happened is a great subject for a play.
Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on Artsound FM’s ‘Artcetera’ program from 9am Saturdays.