Art & Design

   

The Gift

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Wealthy 50-somethings Sadie (Heather Bolton) and Ed (Richard Piper) have fallen into a comfortable-but-dull married rut when they meet young couple Chloe (Elizabeth Debicki) and Martin (Matt Dytynski). The four overcome prejudices to become firm friends, leading to a sailing accident where Martin saves Ed’s life. Chloe and Martin decide to meet again in a year to name a gift for Sadie and Ed to bestow.

The Gift’s strength lies largely in its performances, especially by Ed and Sadie who are anything but cheerful or good humoured (stereotypical). Piper portrays a more realistic than usual caricature of the Aussie battler success story, showing great growth between halves whereas Bolton, the cheerful housewife, shows us glimpses of regret.

The other pair are more distant, focused on Martin’s profession, and seem slight — especially Chloe. This makes more sense in the second half of the play because they share a hollowness, losing substance as the spotlight reveals them more clearly (a consequence of the situation which leads to their choice of gift).

Where the first half of Joanna Murray-Smith’s script is funny (especially Sadie and Ed’s commentary) the second half sheds device and lightness to deploy the secret of the “impossible” gift. No spoilers here (you might guess it; I did), but the play relies heavily on this reveal and the young couple’s attempt at justification.

The first half ends up backdrop rather than setup and we are left with a difficult proposition with no inkling of the consequences. It’s a conversation starter, not the meat of a discussion, but even so I was deeply affected — its themes were close to my heart. Though it attempts no answer, the question posed by The Gift — like the final reveal in Richard Roberts’ excellent design — is not subtle, but powerful.

The Gift opens runs until July 9
MTC Theatre, Sumner, 140 Southbank Blvd
Directed by Maria Aitken
Bookings: The MTC Theatre Box Office 8688 0800 or www.mtc.com.au


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