Charles O’Grady’s third original play makes a return to the stage at Kings Cross Theatre as part of Sydney’s 2018 Mardi Gras. Are We Awake? details a crucial morning in the lives of Endymion (Mathew Lee) and Hypnos (Daniel Monks) as they navigate the complexities of their relationship. O’Grady’s script is a well-balanced one which flows smoothly between the joy, desire, frustration, anger, and (dis)comfort of contemporary queerness, disability, love, and external practicalities. It’s a balance placed in the safe hands of director Sarah Hadley who adds a delicate direction to the two-hander.
Endymion and Hypnos share an intimate hour of their lives, the likes of which most in the audience will have never seen on stage before. Lee and Monks give their relationship an equal dose of playfulness and gravity as they quick change between the usual and not-so-usual aspects of their circumstances. In particular, Lee’s gentleness towards his stage partner rings of sincerity in every line. There’s a flexible and vulnerable dynamic between these two characters that the actors handle very well.
The biggest drawback of the production was, ironically, the curtains. Large, transparent, holographic glitter curtains surround the couple’s otherwise unremarkable bedroom from floor to ceiling. Periodically throughout the performance, the curtains are drawn open or closed or walked through to clumsily denote a dreamscape that the lighting design, sound, and timing made clear more subtly. Not to mention, from my seat, over half of the stage and key moments of dramatic tension were distorted and distracted by them remaining half closed. Cumbersome and unnecessary.
As a piece largely in a realistic style, the rest of the design in lighting and sound could have used simplification at times. Though, that being said, it’s always refreshing to see a production delve into coloured lighting instead of the typical warm wash up, warm wash down. Adding funky disco sequences and underwater-esque dreams gave the production vibrancy and movement that works well on stage.
It is a beautiful show to watch; easy in the good ways, hard in the good ways. If you’re hopping your way through the Mardi Gras theatre list, make Are We Awake? your next stop.
Are We Awake? is running at Kings Cross Theatre from February 21st – March 2nd.