Updated: Jan 2, 2022
3/5 Bridal Bouquets!
By Joshua Hamilton. Presented by New Theatre, Sydney
“Significant Other” by American writer Joshua Harmon. Jordan is gay man — staring down the devastation that is 30 — with three close female friends, Kiki, Vanessa and Laura. Each gal pal heads to the altar, as their beloved gay friend struggles to find a love of his own. Jordan’s only constant is his grandmother and this means listening to stories more than once. “Significant Other” is a bittersweet comedy about romantic yearning given a well-cast, smart and confident production by director Hayden Tonazzi.
Once you get past the heteronormative world of the play, that the women have nothing in their lives apart from the men they adore (or is it hunt… it’s a jungle out there!), and the writing’s sometimes-crushing sentimentality it is possible to be moved. Stunning Tom Rodgers (who plays Jordan) creates a character with both humour and humanity. In one small scene he is waiting to go out for a drink with a friend who has arrived in New York. The hope that this encounter may become something more is incredibly wrenching as is the surface realisation that it will probably come to nothing. Inside the whip cracking dialogue and one more messy bachelorette party there’s a heart to this play. Written before marriage equality in the USA one wonders if Jordan’s predicament may have been different in a more equal world.
Tom Rodgers also delivers a couple of zinger monologues: the first when workmate, Will (a brilliant Matthew McDonald, who excels in all the small roles) emerges from a swimming pool; and later when Jordan crazily deliberates about pressing send on an unrequited love email. Arghh … its ugly and unhinged and this is where the play and this production are at its best. It’s when the pain of fleeting friendships, loneliness and long nights take hold.
Dominique Purdue (Vanessa), Isabella Williams (Kiki) and Laura McInnes (Laura) amuse as the besties . The play is punctuated by visits by Jordan to his grandmother (warmly played by Helen Tonkin). She’s out of her depth with Jordan’s love dilemma but the scenes serve to underline the theme of loss and melancholy as granny slowly starts to lose her memory.
The entire design from set (Hamish Elliot), costumes (Kate Beere), music (Oliver Beard) and sound (Aron Murray) demand special mention. Big ups to lighting designer Morgan Moroney – proving once again a remarkable eye for colour, detail and tone.
It’s always super exciting to catch the work of emerging directors, creative teams and actors – especially in the productions in the year following drama school. We’ve seen a handful of smart, electric and intelligent works at New Theatre created by such teams. In a city where spaces are disappearing and opportunities for artists and audiences are diminishing perhaps it’s time for theatres like the New to extend development, programming and producing slots. Given the size and response of this evening’s audience they could do far worse.
Kate Gaul 13 June 2021