Apples and Pears – a drama review by Deb Meyer

November 22, 2013 by Deb Meyer
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Where in Sydney do you find an intimate theatre inside a NY style, graffiti filled warehouse, with a labyrinth of narrow staircases, bustling with energy and the occasional pot of overgrown tomatoes?

Apples&Pears-(23-of-62)-290-medium-Deb+GeoffUntil last night, I had no idea either. Arriving at the Old 505 Studio in Surry Hills, you’d be forgiven for walking right past it.

No name, no sign, no nothing, except the dribble of dance students leaking out the graffiti clad double doors. A mysterious entrance with the feeling we’d entered a space that should have read ‘PLEASE KEEP OUT’. Thank God we didn’t!

With an intriguing setting laced in so much character, Act 1 had already begun and the play hadn’t even started. Eventually arriving on the 5th floor, after a visually intoxicating lift ride, we entered a dimly lit lounge with an array of art deco style furniture and jugs of water and bottles of red freely available.

The German word ‘gemutlich’ (congenial/cosy/comfortable) comes to mind. The theatre manager welcomed us all warmly, more like a dinner party guest, informing us of the two 45 minute acts and, with only 30 seats, that we’re welcome to sit anywhere. Then showtime.

The play, Apples and Pears, was a real treat. A wonderfully cheeky and clever, dark comedy thriller, Sean O’Riordan has written a play he was challenged to write by his friend and well known actor, Les Marinos.

The story, set in contemporary North London, centres around Max (Geoff Sirmai), a recluse in his apartment for 27 years, after betraying a criminal mate and his lover. Chess-mad Max devises a clever scheme to defeat his rival, only to have his strategy reappraised, after meeting a mysterious German speaking woman.

In this world premier, there’s plenty of laughs and plenty of swearing, not least because of the faulty, accident prone stairs at the entrance to the apartment, which we never see but which are ever present. The stairs play more than a mere perfunctory role. The title of the play, in fact, referring to the word’s Cockney rhyming slang. The script is tightly crafted after extensive reworking by the cast, who clearly have fun with this play.

Moving between absurbism and realism, the play explores the dark edges of friendship, love, lust, family and betrayal. Well known, experienced Jewish actor, Geoff Sirmai is at his comedic best, playing Max with cheek and pathos, keeping his cards close to his chest, or rather, his wooden Queen close at hand.

Highly accomplished and experienced actors Sean O’Riordan and Deborah Jones – both actors and tutors/directors at the Actors College of Theatre and Television in Sydney (ACTT), play the larger than life, fiery characters of Les and Judy. Their chemistry on stage is unmistakable. Judy’s playfulness and seduction are never far from the surface and highlight a woman with a dark past, used to playing roles in life to get what she wants. The character of Les is more caricature crook, pulling out teeth, literally, to get what he wants. Eleanor Ryan, a recent ACTT graduate, plays Judy’s daughter Kristen, who provides the more sensible and moral counterpoint to her emotionally volatile parents. Ryan’s measured performance is a gem. She’s certainly an actress to look out for.

The set design, by Andrea Espinoza, is a real standout, displaying the cluttered environs of a lonely man – old suitcases, chairs and schmattes piled up high, with great attention to detail. O’Riordan’s direction, with Siobhan Lawless as co-director, is excellent, as is the lighting design by lighting veteran Tony Youlden. With impressive settings, both inside the theatre and out, this is a play and venue worth exploring.

Better be quick if you want seats as the play ends this weekend. If you can’t, then find any excuse to go to the Old 505 Theatre, even if just for the total experience. Until November 24. Tickets $25 conc. $15 Bookings www.trybooking.com/DQKS More information www.venue505.com/theatre

Apples and Pears

Written and directed by Sean O’Riordan

Cast: Geoff Sirmai, Deborah Jones, Eleanor Ryan and Sean O’Riordan

Old 505 Theatre, Surry Hills

November 20

Until November 24.

Tickets $25 conc. $15

Bookings www.trybooking.com/DQKS

More information www.venue505.com/theatre

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