Daylight Saving – Darlinghurst Theatre Co

Darlinghurst Theatre Company is committed, for the next three seasons, to bringing Nick Enright’s works to the stage. They begin in appropriate place, with one of the celebrated playwright’s earlier plays: Daylight Saving, a light a romantic comedy set on that day when the clocks change and time, and therefore our futures, seem just a little bit more rife with possibility.

The work is a little dated now and a little inconsequential. It’s a perfectly lovely study of these characters and the quest we are all on, constantly, to feel happy and fulfilled, but that’s all. And it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Enright has an ear for the human language and it’s a pleasure to hang out with these characters for the few hours we have them, because they feel real. 

Rachel Gordon and Ian Stenlake in Daylight Saving. Image by Helen White.
Rachel Gordon and Ian Stenlake in Daylight Saving. Image by Helen White.

Tom (Christopher Stollery), manager to tennis golden child Jason Strutt (Jacob Warner) is away, sort of a lot. His wife Felicity (Rachel Gordon), our port in this theatrical storm, is alone again on their anniversary. It’s getting tired. So, why not have a guest? And why not have one in the shape of Joshua (Ian Stenlake), a charming American she knew back in the day. There’s a history there, a definite shape of romantic interest. Will they succumb to it tonight, alone with a lobster dinner, in the twilight haze between EST and AEST?

Of course, this a comedy that borrows gently from farce, so where would we be without the neighbour (the smashing Helen Dallimore), the busybody mother (Belinda Giblin) and a few mishaps? It’s a genuinely fun and funny piece, and it’s very easy to watch. Director Adam Cook understands that to let this plot unfold, you have to get out of its way; this is a gently rolling wave, not a tsunami, not a tumultuous high tide, and Cook doesn’t over-complicate or over-sentiment the piece. It stays firmly on the right side of sweet without being twee and the wrong side of overworked to instead be simple, and it’s all the better for it.

As Felicity, Gordon is assured in Enright’s world, with a comfortable, lived-in delivery and a refreshingly naturalistic approach. She’s a likable person, which means that you like the people she likes; Tom and Joshua are immediately cast in softer, more endearing lights in her orbit. Stenlake is fantastic as Joshua, who either is or isn’t a good reason to change a life, just slick enough to be questionable. 

The cast of Daylight Saving. Image by Helen White.
The cast of Daylight Saving. Image by Helen White.

This is Dallimore’s play, though, and not in an ostentatious, scenery-chewing way. It’s just impossible to take your eyes off her and her slightly chaotic, frank, charming Stephanie; she looks incredible in her period look (such a fun-spirited eighties pop of colour), and she’s a gem onstage, burning bright with excellent comic timing.

There’s a glow to this production. Some of that is thanks to Gavan Swift’s wonderfully hopeful lighting and the dreamy Hugh O’Connor set; there’s a door opening onto a sunset view that’s streaked with candied colours and it captures everything about late spring, edging into summer: the freshness of the air, especially by the water, the sense of emerging into the light. It feels a little like an old-school holiday home in a coastal town, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

A pleasant and cleansing play, this production doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s bound to make you smile, and sometimes that’s really just enough.

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and is the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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