Presenting the world premiere of award winning Playwright Timothy Daly; Shrinks is a riff on happiness, psychotherapy, and over-analysing ones life to death.
Married psychotherapists Dr Vivienne Anderson and Dr Thomas Hapgood are pretty content with their intellectualised life, or so they thought. When an overly happy patient (Carl), arrives at their practice, they conclude there must be something wrong with this free spirit; no one is that happy. They set about trying to reveal the dark tragedy that is being suppressed in order to cure this conundrum of a case. However, the effect is a case of unintentional reverse psychology on the married pair, revealing their own unhappiness, longing for freedom, lack of passionate love, and the inability to break free from their righteous rut.
As a three-hander comedy with a single-set (the couple’s living room/patient chair designed by Annie Robertson), this is a compact production with the viability to tour.
Directed by Gold & Silver Matilda award-winner, Michelle Miall, the script unconventionally breaks the fourth-wall, adding variety and audience engagement. The other interesting element used in the piece is underscoring of the Bossanova, which playwright Daly uses as a metaphor for Carl’s inner life.
Monette Lee as the mariposa Vivienne is the highlight of the show. She shows a depth of character and complete surrender to the role with vivacity, warmth, and fleeting moments reminiscent of Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia. Daniel Murphy as the conservative, well meaning, but elitist Thomas was suitably uptight, while Jason Bentley as the hyper-happy, Bossanova-loving Carl was charismatic, enjoyable to watch, and looked a natural in the dance sequences. But while the role demands a hyper-reality, it did feel at times a little 2-dimensional, using a wash of naïve positivity, rather than a grounded authenticity.
However, while the play poses the question of whether there was anything wrong with Carl being so damn happy all the time, the obvious ramifications of his actions on the couple were largely ignored. It was glaringly obvious to me that there was something indeed wrong with this ego-centric person who would act in such a provocative way towards Vivienne (in front of her husband) with no conscience, compassion, or remorse for the breakdown of their relationship.
And although the unanswered question does make you think, Shinks is by no means a solely cerebral work. Daly’s play is a satirical comedy that pokes fun at optimism while giving the subtle encouragement to live a joyful life.
Shrinks just finished their run at the Brisbane Arts Theatre and a tour to Noosa Arts Theatre from 25-26 October.
For more information, visit their website: Purple Pear Productions.