Four people enter a supermarket like any ordinary Tuesday. To their shopping trips they bring the baggage of their families, problems, and personalities. Soon they will share the connection of witnessing a violent attack but, for now, they wander the aisles and think to themselves.
At the back of the stage, staring down a runway of open milk bottles, the four actors deliver their monologues. They explain what brings them to the supermarket on that particular day and at that particular time, filling in the minutae of their habits, personality quirks, and the stresses of their families, jobs, and school. Each character is distinct and very well crafted, easily recognisable as average people. Nell Ranney’s direction finds delicate balance between the tensions of each stream of narration and the relief of humour in listening to someone’s private thoughts. This delicacy is also apparent in the gentle moments when characters’ stories brush against each other before drifting back to their aisle of sight.
Each actor bears mentioning for their strong portrayals of the subtle and mundane. Frances Duca plays a wife and mother who is shrinking away from the world as she loses touch with her husband and son. Duncan Fellows is a strung-out supermarket store manager who is just trying to get through the day and find a little pride in his tuna fish can pyramid. Like a lot of teenagers, Bridie McKim’s character lets out her pent-up frustration by skipping school, ignoring her mother, and stealing chocolate bars. Tom Anson Mesker plays a man who is struggling in perhaps intangible ways but he is definitely angry. When his anger builds into a violent attack, he unpredictably draws these lives together as witnesses to the edge of ordinary day and crisis. Each actor brought a perceptible compassion to their character and demonstrated remarkable control in their physical and vocal qualities.
Clare Hennessy’s sound design and Isabel Hudson’s set design work together to create an atmosphere of dis-ease throughout the production. A quiet tinkling melody in the background repeats in a pleasing manner before dropping off before one becomes too comfortable. Whereas a set design that appears to be a domino train of opened milk bottles, typically an innocuous threat, is more obviously discomforting, a physical restriction placed on the actors as well as the audience.
The quiet and familiarity of Louris van de Geer’s script operates as a striking recognition of human behaviour. These are not big characters in an unusual setting and the shift into violence speaks to the reality of how people inflict trauma on each other.
Tuesday is a tight, honest script directed with nuance and performed generously.
Tuesday is running at Belvoir St Theatre from February 6th – 23rd