Playwright Katy Warner takes the key element of Arthur Miller’s A View from a Bridge – the obsessive love Eddie Carbone harbours for his niece Catherine – and fashions it into an arresting 40-minute two-hander.
The present day. Australia. A man (Martin Ashley-Jones), late middle-aged, arrives at the home of a young woman (Lucy Goleby). He’s been caught in a downpour. Taxis don’t stop for blokes like him, he says.
Caught off guard by the man’s earlier-than-expected arrival, the woman provides a towel, a beer, a bowl of barbecue-flavoured chips. So begins an excruciatingly tense encounter in which one seeks closure and the other craves forgiveness – and more.
I won’t say more about what unfolds though if you’ve seen Scottish playwright David Harrower’s 2005 drama Blackbird (produced by the Sydney Theatre Company 2007), you’ll be familiar with Paper Doll’s subject matter and dynamics.
Director Lucy Clements pays close attention to the rhythms of Warner’s fractured dialogue and the emotional push and pull of the piece. The woman’s uncertain boundaries hint at deep damage. The man’s attempts to manipulate her into rekindling a relationship make for uncomfortable viewing.
Goleby is very good here, especially when the young woman’s mask of civility slips away. Ashley-Jones’ performance is alive with subtle shifts and strategies. His is one of the most realistically repellent characters I’ve seen on stage in some time.