Green Park | Griffin Theatre Company

Image by Wendell Teodoro

Two strangers meet in a park ostensibly for a simple hook-up. But they each want something from the other and they aren’t being entirely honest about it either. As darkness falls and the sounds of evening traffic creeps in, the carefully hidden aspects of their lives begin to infiltrate their rendezvous and unsettle their strange acquaintance.

The script by Elias Jamieson Brown was a private encounter meant to be eavesdropped on by the audience through the use of microphones and individual headphones. This maintained the facade of privacy to the characters’ conversation while making sure every misplaced word was witnessed. Set in Green Park, the story picks up on Sydney’s history of cruising and clandestine meetings between gay men with references to the famed Wall just up the hill from the park. But the setting was equally informed by the haunted history of the nearby St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney Jewish Museum, and the National Art School. Over the course of the evening, this simple meeting became entangled in much older stories of violence and persecution.

Edin (Joseph Althouse) is a young man, pretending to be younger, looking for a bit of fun to distract himself. Warren (Steve Le Marquand) is a married man on a business trip to Sydney indulging in the secret second life he keeps in the city. So neither is looking for more than an evening but a series of mishaps embroils them each more deeply into each others’ lives and forming a kind of bittersweet relief as they make their confessions.

The direction from Declan Greene honoured the push and pull of the private and public, the contemporary and historical with a well-balanced pacing that followed the characters’ emotional rollercoasters quickly but believably. In the tight dialogue, it was easy to slip into argument or misunderstanding but the characters were each rendered well enough to keep the audience on side. The sound design by David Bergman introduced a less organic element to the outdoor performance with ominous droning that blurred the distinction between reality and memory as the characters encountered past traumas buried in the setting.

The dynamic between Althouse and Le Marquand volleyed between amicable, tense, and awkward as they struggled to navigate differing expectations. But even as they made mistakes and overstepped boundaries, the actors maintained an honest authenticity and subtle vulnerability that was compelling. Althouse was over-the-top and too laissez faire for Le Marquand’s straight-edge business man but they each had something to offer the other which kept them talking even as their facades crumbled.

Laying amongst the other audience members in a public park, ears tuned to one conversation amongst many, called into question the notion of a worthy story. Who’s to say Edin and Warren’s meeting was the most dramatic one in the park that night? What elevates one encounter above another? As everyone gathered their picnic blankets and wandered off into the night, the air hummed with the unwitnessed stories that were simply carried back home.

Green Park is running at Green Park from January 19th – 30th

Night Writes stands in solidarity with Palestinian people, activists, and BDS organisers as they call for a boycott of Sydney Festival 2022. Night Writes condemns the sponsorship of Sydney Festival by the Israeli Embassy as collaboration with an apartheid regime. By refusing to return the sponsorship, Sydney Festival has compromised itself and its programmed artists two years into a pandemic that has devastated the arts community. For more information and to sign the open letter, visit here. To read Griffin Theatre Company’s statement, visit here.

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