“I am a man,” says Greg Fleet, marching purposefully across the stage.
“I am a man,” says Ian Darling, marching no less purposefully in the other direction.
“I am a white man,” Fleet adds.
“I am a white man,” says Darling, though not before Fleet chips in “rich”.
The Twins is nothing if not aware of the privilege inherent in two high profile middle-aged men occupying stage time and space with stories from their lives.
Fleet and Darling go back a ways. Both attended Geelong Grammar School in the 1970s and became fast friends in a school production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors playing Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse.
After school, however, their paths diverged substantially.
Darling, born into Melbourne establishment wealth, followed in his financier father’s footsteps before refashioning himself as a documentary filmmaker and philanthropist.
Fleet became one of Melbourne’s leading comedians while devoting himself to becoming a full-time “heroin enthusiast”.
Now, like Shakespeare’s Antopholi, these “twins” have reunited after a long separation. In a writing room in a bushfire-ringed Kangaroo Valley, they mull over their choices, regrets and motivations – and whether they should foist all that on an audience.
While The Twins never quite justifies its existence, it does make for an engaging 90 minutes, thanks largely to Fleet, whose life is a goldmine of left-field experiences (his actor dad’s faked suicide, for example) and the rueful observations that come with a life of addiction.
Fleet’s candour mightn’t be news to those who have followed his stand-up career and autobiographical writing. What might surprise more is the power of that candour when he applies it in monologue to reflect on friends who have died, his failings as a father, and to an excerpt of Aegeon’s speech from The Comedy of Errors.
Darling, for whom this is the first stage role in 40-something years, proves a capable performer, though his delivery feels a touch stilted compared to that of his stage partner.
Staged black box-style with a few bits of furniture, the keynote of The Twins is affability, a mood that occasionally devolves into chumminess (their riffing on Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s Michael Caine impersonations, for example).
Things become more interesting as tensions emerge – when, for example, Fleet queries Darling’s motives. Is this just another act of do-gooding philanthropy?
Directed by Terry Serio and Sarah Butler, The Twins comes to Sydney from a season at the Adelaide Fringe. Thoroughly run-in as a result, it is confidently performed. Darling and Fleet’s rapport is warm and enjoyable in a piece that reminds us – should any reminder be needed – that with feelings of nostalgia come feelings of pain.