South Australia’s Brink Productions create their shows through long-term collaborations with artists from different disciplines and backgrounds. Their concept is that if you get a variety of artists into a room without any preconceptions they will create a truly collaborative and original story. Their latest production, Thursday, was inspired by the story of Gill Hicks, an Australian survivor of the 2005 London bombings, and the playwright Bryony Lavery describes the play as a “theatrical response and offering to an enormous human event.” The play explores identity and the ways in which our seemingly lonely lives can be so interconnected.
Director Chris Drummond last collaborated with Brink Productions to create Andrew Bovell’s When the Rain Stops Falling, and he brings many similar ideas to this show – particularly a skillful portrayal of the universality of the human experience. The action begins on the morning of the bombing as we witness, through a beautifully choreographed sequence of movement and light, a group of seemingly unrelated individuals as they prepare for their ‘normal’ day ahead. The characters weave between each other in a shared space, playing out their lives simultaneously in order to highlight all their differences and similarities as they unknowingly hurtle towards the catastrophe that they will all face together. Kate Mulvany dominates the stage as the central character of Rose, an Australian living in London who is sick of her mundane life. Mulvany’s dynamic and engaging performance holds the play together, challenging the audience to connect with her essentially unlikeable character.
The characters eventually converge on the same platform as they wait for the train to take them to their various destinations. The bombing itself is simply conveyed using movement, a minimal set, and clever lighting. It was nicely underplayed, undercoring the fact that the central purpose of the play is not to explore the specific event but rather the ways in which each character responds to it. The latter part of the play reveals how differently people react when faced with death, how tragedy can lead to reformation and the ‘resilience of the human spirit’. The final scene, the morning a year on from the bombing, mirrors the opening scene to highlight the change the event has rendered to all the lives it touched, and ultimately to suggest that such a destructive event has the potential to change people for the better. While the final moment is slightly heavy-handed, it doesn’t detract at all from the overall performance.
The musical accompaniment, which was composed and played by Quentin Grant, is beautiful and heightens the emotional intensity in various scenes, but at some moments becomes so overwhelmingly loud that it is difficult to hear the dialogue. But these are small criticisms of a show that is beautiful in its staging and, though not earth-shattering, does provoke its audience to spend some thought on the nature of our shared existence.