Say Hello First – Sydney Independent Theatre Company

Say Hello First is the kind of new independent theatre that makes the Sydney scene exciting. It plays with form, with emphasis on the ‘play’; it delights in itself, even when it’s serious.

Kernahan and Maas in Say Hello First. Picture by Katy Green-Loughrey.
Kernahan and Maas in Say Hello First. Picture by Katy Green-Loughrey.

A two-hander by Danielle Maas and Joe Kernahan, as part of SITCO’s 20213, this play speaks directly to the mid-20s experiences without once becoming affected.

Perhaps the reason it feels so honest is its very conceit: it’s a performance piece based on interviews conducted with Maas’ ex-boyfriends. From these, she’s come up with her rules of dating, which act as a loose framework for the play.

What we see is a parade of exes (all played with staggering distinction by Kernahan) and the chartered rise and fall of their flings and flirtations with Maas, exit-interview style. If you’ve ever worked in an office (or watched The Office), you know what I mean: “What was your first impression of me?” “What does love mean to you?” “Why did you stop?”

What emerges from this thread of confession and broad yet honest comedy is a beautifully rendered portrait of Maas, who is complex and human and vulnerable, who is not the sum of her experiences but wears them like clothing. Through looking at her relationships with others, we can see Maas in more details, and serious credit must be given to her for mining her life, warts and all, for the stage.

Kernahan and Maas are a winning pair; equally matched in energy, wit, and willingness to tackle even the silliest of lines with a sort of endearing gusto. They are likable, and that’s important; if they weren’t, this play would be an incredibly tedious affair. It works, though, because Maas and Kernahan let us understand that mistakes, missteps, and Feelings in general are universal and unavoidable, much as we might like or feel compelled to think otherwise.

There are plenty of laughs in this play, even if they slowly become replaced with that sinking sense of dread as Maas’life, The Guys’ lives, end up tangled and tattered. It’s probably a sinking feeling you remember well from your own romantic disasters, which makes it more awful, which makes it, of course, also even better.

Say Hello First brings life to The Old Fitz and it’s increasingly, rewardingly, charming. An excellent devised work.

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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