Imagine that, for whatever reason, you’ve lived your whole life without any inhibitions.
You’re unburdened by politeness. You’re the type of person who would shove a slice of cake into someone’s mouth just because you want them to shut up. Imagine that kind of freedom and power.
That’s Kimberly (Claire Lovering) in it a nutshell; she defies all convention and socialisation. She’s the central figure in The Feather in the Web, a new play by Nick Coyle, whose twin specialties are twisted realities and characters with bite.
Now, imagine this: that person who gives zero fucks and leaves discomfited, discombobulated people in their wake – Kimberly – falls in love. All-consuming, head over feet, at-first-sight love.
How can she live in the world now? She’s no longer living for herself.
Soon, her life revolves around the object of her love, Miles (Gareth Davies) – he’s in brand development – and Lily (Michelle Lim Davidson), his bright, ambitious fiancé. She meets them quite by accident at an engagement party thrown by Miles’ mother Regina (Tina Bursill), and the whole world shifts.
Coyle plays with reality, time, and human needs in The Feather in the Web, a deliciously funny and consistently off-kilter consideration of what love means – and what falling into it does to our individuality.
By taking an apocalyptically queer lens to contemporary relationships, Coyle – with director Ben Winspear – has created a world that’s all our anxieties, desires and impulses writ large. It’s a play dripping with id that revels in the sinister (KT Tunstall’s sunny bop Suddenly I See, cannily deployed over the course of the play, has never felt quite so … off).
Sophie Fletcher’s offbeat, winningly adaptable set, which uses curtains and blinds to delineate space and time to remarkable effect – when everything turns beige late in the play, it’s a striking study of stifling heteronormativity – is lit with devilish glee by Trent Suidgeest.
Winspear directs the action with well-controlled gusto, lingering on the most unsettling moments so that we must sit with them.
Lovering leads a cast of excellent performances with astonishing commitment. She’s primal, relentless, and somehow both one with the void and completely animated. It’s near impossible to take your eyes off her.
The ensemble works well, together (an improv class scene, a joint effort between Lovering, Lim Davidson and Bursill is sharply funny) and apart.
Bursill’s deft comic timing is strong here. She plays a drunk scene with surprising truth and her late appearance as the aura of Kimberly’s migraine is unsettlingly delightful.
Lim Davidson is heartwarmingly basic as Kimberly’s foil Lily, and then, pleasingly, evolves into something much more than that. Davies walks the careful line between charming and creepy with aplomb.
While it might be interesting to see how Kimberly came to be so singular and removed from society as we know it, it’s enough to entertain the idea that she arrived on earth fully formed and allergic to compromise.
To watch her fall in love and force herself to the point of repeated physical and mental anguish in order to become ‘acceptable’ to the object of her affection, and the world, is startling. It also feels uncomfortably familiar.