It’s always nice to go to the Blue Room Theatre and expect to see something a little bit different, particularly when writer/director Will O’Mahony says his performance Great White “promises carnage”.
Before even sitting down in the intimate theatre the performance definitely promised tension and menace; the floor was covered in a sea of balloons. These are honestly terrifying objects, just waiting to burst at any moment.
My past traumatic experiences with the balloons aside, Great White was well-written, engaging and witty from beginning to end. Exploring themes of insecurity, loneliness, sacrifice and love, the play centres around Ben’s (Will O’Mahony) encounter with a shark named Lauren (Adriane Daff) and his drowning relationship with his girlfriend, also named Lauren (Mikala Westall). They all find themselves struggling with time and what it means to be great.
The dialogue between Will O’Mahony’s Ben and both Laurens is what holds the play together so tightly. Adriane Daff is cool and collected as a young woman once taken by a shark, only to become a shark. Her manner and movements encapsulate her predicament as both a villain and victim, which was a truly gripping aspect of the performance; Mikala Westall was nothing short of natural, funny and lively.
The lighting (Joe Lui) and sound design (Will Slade) were subtle against the focus on characterisation at the heart of the play. The sound was minimal, providing little more than a menacing undertone during silences. In contrast, changes in lighting were frequent and predictable in a way that effectively dictated the mood for the audience. When the suspense rose the lighting was dim and blue, while relaxed exchanges were emphasised with yellow light.
Having already mentioned my experience with the balloons, I found this to be a successful use of design (Alicia Clements) that complement the tone of the play brilliantly. The simple swimming costumes were a wise choice over more elaborate outfits, allowing the underlying messages and the three performers to be the centre of attention for the audience.
More than anything, it was the strong dialogue and careful direction that made Great White such a pleasure to watch. There were only a few lulls in pace and each of the performers was well-suited to their role and totally believable. Will O’Mahony clearly knew what he wanted to achieve. Dramatic and psychological, this performance is something you can really sink your teeth into.