The Twins | Shark Island Institute & the ArtsLab Kangaroo Valley

Ian Darling and Greg Fleet discovered their unique stage partnership in a high school production of the Comedy of Errors in 1978. Some 40 years later they want to reclaim those old feelings and return to the stage together but the intervening years have done some damage. In this meta-play, the two old friends sift through two lifetimes of regrets, disappointments, and unexpected triumphs.

The premise of the play is a simple one, two men reconnecting after a long absence, but writer Sarah Butler worked with Darling and Fleet to flesh out decades of silence between the two friends. Darling with a long career as a documentary filmmaker revealed his resentment and jealousy of Fleet’s acting career as well as his personal hang-ups about his privilege and artistic image. Fleet caught Darling up on his missing years spent buried deep in addiction and poverty which have deteriorated his reputation and self-esteem.

Butler’s set design places the men in a rehearsal room with black-box walls and a symbolic but literal box of Darling’s prized memories. Artists in the audience will recognise the rehearsal room atmosphere where social decorum is quickly shed to get to the raw, tender emotions of each performer. The sound design included a variety of vintage rock songs that evoked the nostalgia of Fleet and Darling for their youthful days at the beginning of their friendship and lighting design by Morgan Moroney used spots and changes in temperature to isolate thoughts, flashbacks, and monologues. This technique, in particular, of having the actors directly narrate their thoughts to the audience was overused and cluttered the narrative with over-explanation.

Despite the often stilted nature of the dialogue with forced reveries and “do you remembers”, Darling and Fleet had a comfortable, friendly dynamic that seemed especially authentic when divulging disappointments or hidden truths about each others’ memories. Direction from Butler and Terry Serio strove towards a natural, easy tone with little to distract from the men’s conversation. Darling offered a unique vulnerability in his performance as a relative newbie to the stage as well as in his openness to listen to Fleet. The production worked best when Fleet, with Darling, explored the complexity of his life story, the impact of dishonesty and addiction, the paradox of trust. These moments where there were no clear answers but rather a willingness to acknowledge and keep going were poignant and deeply honest.

Structurally and narratively, this script struggles to maintain momentum and it frequently trades stakes for sentimentality but there’s a lot in the Twins that will resonate with people who have a regret or two. Maybe the soothing affirmation that, indeed, everyone has a story is enough.

The Twins is running at Seymour Centre from March 30th – April 17th

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