The Anchor is an independent theatre company that was created by Melbourne-based playwright and theatre-maker Laura Lethlean, and directors Katie Cawthorne (the Artistic Director and co-CEO of Canberra Youth Theatre) and Jessica Arthur (a current resident artist and Directing Associate at Sydney Theatre Company). According to the trio, what they’re seeking to accomplish through their productions is to “hear authentic voices and listen without judgement”.
The Anchor’s current project, presented together with bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company, is Two Hearts, a new piece penned by Lethlean and developed across three cities over the last year. It’s the story of the relationship of a young man (Damon Manns) and a young woman (Eliza Scott) from the time of their meeting at a house party to their eventual parting. Early on, as the relationship blossoms, it’s an exciting time during which the two seek to learn as much as they can about each other. Later, things disintegrate to a point where each of the two seems easily irritated by the other and it’s clear their days together are numbered.
For the most part, Two Hearts is focused on the ordinary details and conversations of a relationship to which the bulk of audience members will relate. However, later on in the piece, the couple is forced to have difficult conversations around the young woman’s pregnancy, discovered soon after the end of the relationship. It canvasses questions likely to be commonly asked by those grappling with whether to bring a child into the world once the love between them and any other remaining ties are gone. Of course, the discussion here isn’t presented in such a way that conjures the highly charged, highly politicised debate about these sensitive issues, rather it focuses on the way in which the issue is dealt by the two impacted people and the considerations that guide them forward.
There’s no overriding message or lesson to be taken from Two Hearts. What it will likely do is have audience members reflecting on their own experiences in failed relationships, the progression of those relationships and the memories that remain long after their disintegration. Are two people ever entirely separated from one another or do the two hearts remain inherently linked in some way, informing their experiences going forward?
This is a 60-minute piece that moves along at a steady pace. Lethlean’s text retains an authentic feel throughout and Arthur has drawn performances from her cast that result in dialogues between them that feel naturalistic for the most part (early on in the particular performance attended, it did feel as though some lines were still being internalised, but that issue disappeared as the performance progressed). Manns (who made his impressive stage debut in Outhouse Theatre Company’s The Rolling Stone in July) is affable and engaging. Equally, Scott is genuine, relatable and sympathetic as the young woman ultimately left to make an enormous decision. Both Manns and Scott succeed in investing us in their characters’ stories.
The couple is joined by Phoebe Grainer, whose character serves as a device for eliciting their reflective thoughts post-relationship. Grainer does well with the text, but it feels as though there is room for some further fleshing out of this role and refinement of the way it is woven into the structure of the play.
That said, Two Hearts is an engaging piece that offers an opportunity to listen to authentic voices. It tells a story from which audience members will each derive different meaning based on their own life experiences. The development of The Anchor as a theatre company is something to which theatregoers should pay attention.
TWO HEARTS – SEASON DETAILS
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Level 2, 244-248 William Street, Kings Cross)
Remaining performance: Saturday 3 November, 2018 – 7:30pm
Tickets can be purchased here