Dead Cat Bounce is the latest work penned by Sydney-based playwright Mary Rachel Brown. Currently having its world premiere at SBW Stables Theatre in a production directed by Mitchell Butel, it’s a piece that highlights the importance of leaving the past in the past and doing what’s necessary to move forward.
Dead Cat Bounce is the story of a writer in his late forties, Gabe (Josh Quong Tart), who is profoundly unhappy and is an alcoholic. He’s begun seeing Matilda (Kate Cheel), a 24-year-old he met at an airport bar, and while she seems beguiled by Gabe and ready to commit to a shared future, his drinking and his persistent existential angst may see the relationship die a quick death.
A big part of the problem is Gabe’s ongoing interaction with his ex-partner, Angela (Lucia Mastrantone), who he continues to rely on for professional and personal support. But their entanglement is the fault of both parties. Angela is patently reluctant to fully relinquish the role she has fulfilled for some time, caring for Gabe in his difficult times and rescuing him from the consequences of his toxic behaviour. She and her new partner, Tony (Johnny Nasser), now even care for Gabe’s cat, strongly suggestive of Angela’s refusal to be totally rid of the remnants of her former shared life. And Tony is acutely aware of her willingness to assist Gabe when he calls on her and the impediment that represents in their own partnership.
This 95-minute piece doesn’t traverse any unfamiliar territory, but it’s nonetheless an enjoyable experience foregrounding worthy and relevant themes, reminding us of our propensity to hang on to relationships that aren’t good for us and that calling it a day on the past is much easier said than done. It doesn’t start strongly, but as it progresses, we do find ourselves investing in Brown’s characters and hoping they’ll each find enough strength to ditch the deadweight.
Butel’s cast is strong. Quong Tart convinces as the difficult Gabe, a damaged man who is initially frustrating but, as we learn more about his past, becomes more sympathetic. Cheel’s Matilda is bright and buoyant, and the actor does as much as she’s able with the character. Nasser is likeable and lends integrity to the role of Tony, a man continuing to compete with Gabe for Angela’s attention. And as Angela, it’s Mastrantone who impresses most. The character is seemingly a glutton for punishment who is somehow unable to free herself of responsibility for Gabe completely – even well after the breakup.
Genevieve Blanchett’s sparse production design makes smart use of the SBW Stables Theatre, enhanced immensely by Alexander Berlage’s highly effective lighting. Nate Edmonson’s score is appropriately woven in and out of the production and makes particular impact during scene transitions.
Dead Cat Bounce won’t set the world on fire, but there is always value in theatre that reminds us that life isn’t easy and that we only have today. Brown’s text achieves that precisely.
DEAD CAT BOUNCE – SEASON DETAILS
Dates: Playing now until 6 April 2019
Times: Monday – Friday 7pm; Saturday 2pm & 7pm; Wednesday 27 March 2pm & 7pm; Captioned Performance Tuesday 26 March
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre (10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross)
Bookings: (02) 9361 3817 or griffintheatre.com.au