Sex, Death and a Cup of Tea – Tasmanian Theatre Company

Sex, Death and a Cup of Tea is the first commissioned piece for the Tasmanian Theatre Company. It consists of four completely independent plays written by four renowned playwrights. Each was sent to a rural part of Tasmania and asked to write based on the inspiration of their surroundings. The result was two hours of entertainment and four very moving stories about love, lust, death and fly-fishing.

The first play performed was The Seagull by Sue Smith who was sent to Zeehan. It tells the story of an illicit relationship, taking place between Cassie and Phillip. Phillip (Guy Hooper) is a married man who comes into Zeehan from time to time and spends time with his lover Cassie (Jemma Gates). After a heated argument he leaves and Cassie starts to miss him, enter May (Joan Murray) an elderly woman who is quite likely going to be able to teach Cassie of the importance of true love. This piece is charming and shows the darker side of human relationships, especially when one partner relies on the relationship more than the other. The set is subtle throughout the performances (this assists with the travelling of the show) yet effective in what it conveys. The acting comes across strong and, as we will discover, diverse as the actors have a different character in each play.
The second play was as strong as the first, with the exception of being slightly more comical. Bull Kelp by Debra Oswald is set in the confines of King Island and begins with the hilarious Scottish seal-man, Selkirk (Guy Hooper) jumping out of a pile of bull kelp and scaring a young local (Scott Farrow). This man accepts Selkirk’s offer of help and eventually is embarrassed by him in front of a childhood love and traveller (Jemma Gates). Both of the young characters, one who fears leaving, the other fears being stuck there, get tricked into helping out Selkirk for the entirety of his stay. Can Selkirk help the young couple see what has been in front of them all along? With more of a focus on love and being home in a country place, this piece had the most contact with the audience, based entirely on applause and laughter.

The second act was just as strong as the first, starting off with, Sex, Death and Fly fishing, which was probably one of the most acting based play of the entire night. The play was based on dialogue between an old fly fisherman (Guy Hooper) and a young man (Scott Farrow), in the old man’s hut, in the middle of winter. Adam Grossetti wrote Sex, Death and Fly Fishing in Miena. The lighting worked off a lower angle than the other shows, as to create a cold and dark atmosphere. The use of music under the young man’s first monologue, set the tone for the play, setting it up to be a very arctic feeling play in a desolate setting. Farrow and Hooper had quite a challenge when it came to this Sex, Death and Fly Fishing, considering the only two people on stage for the entirety are the young man and the Fly fisherman, this especially the case with Farrow who had the role of narrator as well as his character. This was certainly one of my favourite plays from the whole production, because of how it used it’s minimalist props and cast to create such a powerful image of dedication and ghosts of time gone by.

The final play of the night The Exceptional Beauty of the First and Last by Finegan Krukemeyer, was written in Swansea, based around the idea that the majority of the population of Swansea, are retired. The story revolves around the dress maker the drifter who has finally returned home, and the drifter’s childhood friend and later, girlfriend. Scott Farrow had another brilliant performance as the drifter, who was rediscovering the whole town. Jemma Gates and Joan Murray were also exceptional. Joan Murray, in this particular play, was a definite stand out, as Gates’ was in her other plays. Murray showed the perfect characterisation for her particular role. The use of the acting space, was resourceful, designating particular corner’s for particular locations, that combined with the simple props, such as the flowers, worked exceptionally well. The part of The Exceptional Beauty of the First and Last, that was the most memorable was definitely the ending with the drifter and his girlfriend on the beach, under the dimmed lights, it had an amazing atmosphere which was the perfect way to end Sex, Death and a Cup of Tea.

Sex, Death and a Cup of Tea is showing across the state. Travelling rurally until the 21st of August, in Launceston from August 25-28 and in the Hobart Backspace Theatre from September 2nd until September 25th. This is most definitely not a show to be missed by supporters and enjoyers of local, professional theatre.

-Luke & Andreas

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