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The Split

"calm pooled silences, the great lakes of still"

Audrey review: Sarah Hamilton's melancholy play gently decouples a relationship as the end draws near.

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Show: The Split
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The Split

Date: 6 Dec 2019

A radioactive sun glowered in an ashen sky as I waited for the bus to the Old 505.

I could look at it without wincing.

I thought it was the moon until I saw the real deal, spliced perfectly in two later on. Like a fantastical, grimy grapefruit, a hole punch into some neon beyond, it put everything askew from its natural bearings.

Add to this the muscle relaxant of the summer air at dusk, and my body was ready to cast adrift on the dreamy, melancholy, meandering and semi-apocalyptic story of The Split – a brand new Australian play by Sarah Hamilton.

Jules and Tom are floating on a small boat on the ocean. It’s their last trip out together; it was planned to be. Though they goof about in the ocean singing silly songs, though it may seem they’re soul mates for sure, what they have is insufficient.

There is nothing so inexplicably self-evident as love – when it’s there, when it’s not. When it’s there but not enough.

We get a glimpse of this when Jules sees something beautiful on the horizon, something unknown to us too. She calls Tom to join her witnessing, but he shrugs, doesn’t look up. We see her mouth twist downward.

What makes a relationship work, anyway? What is it that binds two people together? Who knows a thing but the people who are in it? … and even then.

Days pass. Tangerine skies deepen into blues.

The ocean courses beneath them, and before us the audience, its slow tumble projected against the back wall as a scalloped cascade.

Aside from a few spats, they’re good to each other. Their graceful uncoupling is surreal and – though the welter of pain beneath them is palpable – idealistic, perhaps.

She rubs his back with sunscreen. He tosses her a mandarin. Playing with language and gestures, they practice their rebound against the still Significant Other.

The games entangle them, allow them to arrive at honesty through hypothetical byways, and fill the space with words they can’t say. A phatic language of melancholia and kindness.

“Snap,” she says. The card game is finished. “Snap,” he replies. They look at each other dead on and say it again.

Among the calm pooled silences, the great lakes of still, the pair talk candidly about their life after the epoch of each other has ended.

She wants to move to Canada, to be like the woman she saw beaming in a photograph.

He wants to get a dog and renounce home ownership.

It’s clear the split will hurt him more.

They talk platitudes, dreams, memories, Tinder and the end of the world.

“Do you think the earth will destroy us before we destroy it?” he asks.

“I hope so,” she replies.

Amy Victoria Brooks and Max Garcia-Underwood bring subtlety, warmth and naturalism to this couple watching themselves dissolve.

The soundscape (Mario Spate) and lighting (Kobe Donaldson) anoint the theatre space with a tranquil beauty.

While handled by the sensitive mind of director Charley Sanders, this play, it requires ass meat that I simply do not have. Ninety minutes may not seem a long sit, but the larghissimo pace became soporific.

The performances have too much pathos in them to ever turn the play dull, but the dreaminess, at times, sloughs into drowsy.

This review created with the support of City of Sydney

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