As it’s Saint Valentine’s Day week, it’s a commercial glut of glittery hearts and factory roses as we’re told to face the future as the gods intended: as a wholesome twosome. Blah to that; celebrate instead by going to fortyfive downstairs to see Little One’s Theatre’s Two by Two.
It’s raining; it’s been raining for so long that Carl (Gary Abrahams) and Jack (Paul Blenheim) can see the huge boat from their high-rise city apartment window. Jack’s packing supplies and listening to the radio for unlikely evacuation news. As a painter, Jack’s ticket to board is at the end of the queue, but Carl’s a doctor – someone with useful post-ammageddon skills. Both know why they’re not staring in this episode of The Love Boat, especially as their boy/girl couple neighbours went days ago. But there’s hope when Duckie (Zahra Newman), a patient of Carl’s, turns up with a baby and is desperate to board.
Darkly funny and unexpectedly confronting, Two by Two was developed at NIDA and won the 2011 Malcolm Robertson Prize (for awesome writing).
Although clearly a very personal piece, writer Dan Giovnnoni puts story and character first and seasons with the personal, political and metaphorical. There’s no waving the garish equality flag (no one’s questioning their legal and social coupling); instead, his writing forces us to go beyond the superficial question and ask what we’d really do in the same situation. Would we, as a society and as individuals, let a same-sex couple onto the last boat instead of a mummy, daddy and baby? When it comes down to survival, how many flag-wavers would stop saying “yes“and abandon the rainbow until the storm was over. And who else would be left behind? I’m 40-something, single and a writer; so, I’d be in my swimmers and dog-paddling to meet some of my friends at the floating cocktail bar.
Working with a design that leaves us craving sun and fluffy towels (Emma Kingsbury, set and costume; Nate Edmondson, sound) and a cast who let us love their characters through their faults, director Stephen Nicolazzo (Negative Energy Inc) creates a mood that spatters hope among the inevitable despair. It’s a story about making impossible choices, what we have to lose to be safe, and he ensures that we’re always asking if there is a better or at least another choice.
Nicolazzo’s Little Ones Theatre develops and presents new Australian plays and “work that allows you to love ferociously, abandon yourself and let your heart explode”. Working in Melbourne and Sydney, they premiered the likes of Declan Greene’s Home Economics and promise to keep questioning and confronting with the kind of passion and intelligence that wakes up our hearts and makes us thrilled to go the theatre.