What happens when you trap vastly different people in a room together at the end of their lives, with an unknown fate ahead of them? Do our faith and our convictions crumble? Does doubt start to creep in?
British writer and director Kieran Gould-Dowen has set himself a mammoth task by trying to answer these questions – along with many, many more – in his new play Take a Seat.
The stage production is set in a courthouse waiting room for the recently deceased – in this case, seven lost souls awaiting an impending judgement on their fate.
With such a scary prospect ahead of them, it’s natural these strangers seek solace in one another. As confidences seep out, it becomes obvious people are only too quick to justify themselves and judge others. Yet everyone is desperate to find understanding and forgiveness from the people around them.
There’s room for all sorts of discussions here – and indeed, a large array of topics are confronted, from racism to depression, euthanasia to homophobia, religion, love and hatred.
It’s a tense performance that challenges you to feel uncomfortable – it acknowledges the deeply divided nature of our contemporary society … And the things that always unite us.
Take a Seat is a brave play. Right from the very beginning, it establishes an intimacy with its audience. The actors are already onstage, chatting between themselves as audience members take their seats.
It draws you in immediately, makes you feel as if you are a part of the performance – perhaps you too are in this strange limbo land.
With minimal props and sound aids, everything hangs on the script and performance delivery. Yet it works – quite a feat, given that many of the actors are amateurs or in their debut roles.
The performances are raw, honest and frequently powerful (special hat off to Adrian Quintarelli). Themes are deftly handled, with key emotional points cleverly disrupted by humour. At pivotal moments throughout the play, silence onstage is interrupted only by the audience sniffling and rummaging through bags for tissues.
At times, there’s an absence of subtlety to the conversations and the characters can be prey to certain stereotypes (the angry, intolerant American soldier, for example).
But there is a point in this too – Gould-Dowen attempts to highlight how one action and one belief does not define a person. At the end of the day – or a life – acts of love are those that speak the loudest.
Take a Seat Tickets
When: The last show for Take a Seat is 7pm, Sunday 29 January.
Where: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, off Little Collins Street.
Cost: $25-32. You can buy tickets here.
The Butterfly Club is a wonderfully eclectic venue for theatre productions. Much as the material in the play demands intimacy, so too does the room it’s held in.
Pews of chairs are tightly packed in, with benches along a wall for last minute stragglers. My advice: don’t be a last minute straggler! Get in quick so you can snap up front seats and truly immerse yourself in the drama!
Try to get as close to the front as you can as well – the thumping of feet overhead can occasionally drown out a quieter voice.
Note: Though I was invited to attend Take a Seat, all views expressed in this article are my own.