“The key element in pornography is the absence of love. What’s new about Closer is that it’s a play about love that’s fighting fiercely not to become pornography,” wrote Jack Kroll (Newsweek) about Patrick Marber’s Closer.

Michael Fenemore-Cocks as “Larry”Whilst Kroll may have been trying to push his article up the Google search ladder by including the word ‘pornography’ (as am I), he makes a fine point. The second law of thermodynamics states that: “In a closed system, all things tend toward entropy.” Simply put: place a hot thing and a cold thing in a box, and the hot thing will make the cold thing warmer, until they are both equally warm. Apply this to people and relationships, and you have one person giving their energy to another person, until they create equilibrium of mutual appreciation. Is this enough? Is this what we all experience? Can we achieve perpetual emotion? To start to unravel Marber’s intricate web of interpersonal connection, I sat down with the cast of Avid Theatre’s Closer. Cast members Johnny McNamara (Dan), Kendall Rae (Alice), Michael Fenemore-Cocks (Larry), and Tania Knight (Anna) were kind enough to share a few moments out of a busy rehearsal to give me their thoughts on this piece, and their upcoming production.

At this point our waiter interrupts and asks why I, average looking at best, am sitting directly across from four attractive, photogenic people. I explained they are a part of a production of the play Closer, and I am the incredibly important theatrical journalist interviewing them. The waiter sneers at me, then turns to the cast and says “Ewwww, Closer? Isn’t that Julia Roberts-based? Didn’t Panic at the Disco name some of their songs after important dialogue from that? Why would you want to do that?” Johnny McNamara leans back on his seat and explains: “It’s a flawless script, perfectly drawn characters, a dream-role, no matter who you are playing. I also like the journey that all characters go on, and love the fact that (spoiler alert!) no-one gets what they want.” Tania Knight adds: ”It’s a good story. I like that it explores weaknesses that are exposed by human desire and the need for connection, in a way that’s real, raw and confronting, but also touching. As an actor it’s also an incredibly challenging and exciting text.” The waiter turns away and leaves, without taking our orders.

Feeling slightly emasculated at being beaten to the punch by a waiter, I turned my attention to Kendal Rae, hoping to regain some lost credibility:

Kendal Rae as “Alice”Theatre People – “Every play has a script…”
Rae – “You know your stuff.”
TP – “Thankyou, I have read up on this. What do you like about this particular script for Closer?”
Rae – “It’s naked, that’s how I would describe it. There is no holding back – it’s fearless writing. The power play, the underpinning of the human condition, the rhetorical motif of love, it’s just brilliant. The characters are all very strong as individuals, but put them together, and they fall apart.
TP – “Did you say naked?”
Rae shuffles nervously so, embarrassed, I move on…

Michael Fenemore-Cocks arrived at our meeting direct from a massage, so I thought it pertinent to ask Michael if he believed happy endings in life existed as there appear to be none in Closer. “My own experience” Michael begins, “is I have loved deeply and lost completely. I have made mistakes and been granted the most generous forgiveness. The play is arguing that who we love is random, chancy, not star-crossed destiny… I live in hope”. I start to realise that getting a one-word answer out of these people is going to be tough!

 

Tania Knight (Anna) and  Johnny McNamara (Dan)Just when I was about to launch into a barrage of questions about the career trajectory of Patrick Marber post writing for seminal British comedy hero Alan Partridge, a woman at the next table throws her paella at the man sitting opposite, who is presumably the world’s newest ex-boyfriend. “You lying pig!” she wails, and exits the restaurant. Our waiter returns, suitably cool like he sees this every day, and says: “I am always honest to my partners, guess he wasn’t….” and leaves again without taking our orders. It is as if we have come to the restaurant from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life with the waiter serving us conversation, as the cast ignite with spirited opinion on this latest offering of discussional degustation. “Truth is the ONLY policy in life but it took me many, many years to get there,” offers Michael. Johnny asserts: ”There are some things that are best left unsaid, kept to oneself. As Larry says, if I may quote Michael’s character here: ‘If you could see the stuff that runs through our [men’s] heads.’” What about you Tania, do you believe honesty is the best policy in a relationship? “Yes I do, not that it means you have to tell your partner everything, but the best relationships are always the ones where people can be really honest with each other and confront things, and I think that is the key to avoiding getting into situations like the ones in Closer, and the truth has a way of revealing itself eventually.” She then stared ominously at each of us in turn.
 

While I had Knight, I asked her to put her producer hat on (which is really just a promotional hat from The Producers with “The” and the “s” blacked out), and I ask her what is different about this production of Closer. She responds: “Our aim is to bring more truth to the text, and draw the audience further into the lives of the four characters. What we hope to present is not ‘a play’ but an experience that invites the audience to join four individuals as they relive significant moments of their relationships, over a period of four years. This experience will start in the foyer with a ‘Museum of Broken Hearts’ where objects representing previous relationships, close to the heart of each cast member, will be on display. It’s been a collaborative creative process, and the end result will be the sum of what we believe to be very well selected parts. What makes it different? Ultimately that’s up to the audience to decide.”

Ultimately there are infinite realities that exist in this universe. Yours, mine, your partner’s, that girl you like, that guy you saw this morning and were too afraid to talk to. You can never know just what that reality is, because by looking at that person, or interacting with them, you have changed their reality. The Butthole Surfers put it best in their song “Pepper:” “You never know just how you look through other people’s eyes.” Closer takes a look through just a few people’s eyes, and those eyes look back, but, like Schrödinger’s cat, you won’t know unless you look yourself. So add Avid Theatre’s Closer to your reality, it’s the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off… but we all know it’s better if you do.

Closer

Date: 27 Jan 2011 – 05 Feb 2011
Time: 7:30pm
Preview: Thu 27 Jan 2011 at 7:30pm
Price: $25 full / $15 conc, preview & group 8+ [plus booking fee]

Bookings: http://www.theatreworks.org.au/whatson/event/?id=84

Photography by Ben Johnson, 2vue Imagery

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