Trevor is a tragicomedy by US playwright Nick Jones, inspired by a true story. First performed in New York in 2013, the show has opened at Kings Cross Theatre in a new production by Outhouse Theatre Company in association with bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company.
Trevor (Jamie Oxenbould) is an 11-year-old, 200-pound chimpanzee, living with his human owner, Sandra (Di Adams) in suburban America. He’s well-known to the local community and appears highly civilised; he eats at the dinner table with Sandra, drinks wine from wine glasses, and even drives her car.
When we meet Trevor and Sandra, his driving has just prompted a complaint from Ashley (Ainslie McGlynn), who’s (understandably) concerned about him doing so, as well as his ongoing general presence in a house in which he is permitted by his owner to roam freely. Ashley attempts to impress upon Sandra that this animal, regardless of his apparent domestication, doesn’t belong in a human household.
In his play, Jones gives Trevor the ability to express his thoughts and feelings freely through English language. He yearns for the days he spent as an ‘actor’, having even appeared in TV commercials with 70s and 80s soapstar, Morgan Fairchild (Eloise Snape). He longs to return to acting.
Of course, while the audience is able to understand Trevor, the occupants of his own world cannot. While Sandra believes she can properly communicate with the chimp, she will ultimately be forced to confront the fact that she can’t really know his thoughts and motivations and is therefore unable to guarantee that Trevor poses no threat to those around him. And when Trevor becomes aware of his misfit in his current environment, the ramifications are disastrous.
Trevor provokes reflection on a variety of issues, including the limited ability of all of us to be able to truly understand one another or to live in another’s shoes, and the pain associated with realising that certain dreams are unachievable. We must also ponder the toll associated with removing animals from their natural environments because of our own pursuit of a connection. But it’s also a seriously funny and entertaining piece of work, skilfully directed by Shaun Rennie.
Playing the title role, Oxenbould is excellent. His Trevor effectively convinces through his physicality and movement that he’s a chimpanzee, but it’s never over-the-top or ridiculous and is balanced wonderfully with the need for Oxenbould to articulate the chimp’s thoughts in human terms. He also makes good use of his comedic skills to get the most out of Jones’s text.
Adams also delivers a strong performance as Trevor’s loving owner, Sandra. Like a mother with her child, Sandra’s rose-coloured glasses prevent her from appreciating the legitimate concerns of those around her about the risk that Trevor poses or the ethical quagmire in which she is immersed. On one hand, we are sympathetic to Sandra, but we’re also frustrated by her lack of judgment. Elsewhere on the stage, Snape earns her fair share of the laughs with her amusing portrayal of Fairchild, Garth Holcombe delights as Trevor’s imaginary chimp friend, and McGlynn does well as the apprehensive neighbour. Jemwel Danao and David Lynch round out a strong cast.
The bulk of events in Trevor unfold in and around Sandra’s home, and Jonathan Hindmarsh’s set is a detailed recreation of the living area. The set is arguably one of the best uses of KXT’s traverse space, to date.
In the program for this production, there’s a quote from renowned primatologist Dr Jane Goodall, which reads, “In what terms should we think of these beings, non-human yet possessing so very many human-like characteristics? How should we treat them? Surely we should treat them with the same consideration and kindness as we show to other humans?” They are words that speak to the matter at the heart of Trevor. And in answering that question, Jones’s play asks us to contemplate that showing the ‘same consideration and kindness’ means recognising the differences that eternally separate us.
TREVOR – SEASON DETAILS
When: Playing now until 6 July 2019
Times: Tuesdays – Saturdays at 7:30pm; 5pm on Sundays
Tickets: Adult $42 | Concession $35 | $20 for Under 30s (Thursday events)
Where: Kings Cross Theatre (KXT) – Level 2, Kings Cross Hotel, Kings Cross