‘L’Appartement’ was Magnifique.
In a world premiere that was both exciting and compelling, Queensland Theatre’s latest work ‘L’Appartement’ is an original and unmissable production, bound to leave a lasting impression. Taking audiences on the trip of a lifetime, the text was filled with acute and amusing dialogue that questions good intentions and lands a culturally-charged ethical dilemma onto our doorsteps.
Performed in the gorgeous Cremorne Theatre at Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), ‘L’Appartement’ dances with relevancy, navigating themes of self-fulfilment, societal pressures, cultural divides, marriage, and varying beliefs and values. Set in Paris, France, otherwise known as the ‘City of Love’, Aussie couple Meg and Rooster embark on a dream getaway with plans to live it up with fine wine, lavish food and no three-year-old twins. Picking up the keys to their swanky Airbnb apartment, they encounter their young French hosts who are super-cool overachievers. Feeling slightly mediocre in comparison, all it takes is 15-minutes alone, and their perfect holiday comes to a screeching halt.
‘L’Appartement’ took its audience on a theatrical and sentimental journey, full of agility, vivid representations and finesse. Established playwright, Johanna Murray-Smith, has crafted a text that is relevant, comedic and witty. Leaving audiences in hysterics over some very familiar scenarios, there was something in her emotionally concocted characters that was extremely relatable. Audiences could easily associate themselves with Meg and Rooster – they were one of our relatives, friends or neighbours, and just like the Aspley-local couple, the text hit right in the heart of ‘home’.
While also making her directorial debut, Murray-Smith moved and imagined her actors within the world, building tension easily through varying scenes of comedy and realism. Watching characters breakdown in poignant moments, after drunken gags and hilarious exchanges on kitchen countertops, allowed tension to rise and fall and it carried the audience on a mood-changing adventure. Murray-Smith was the best person to understand her story, and her direction effectively showed this in a concise and clear vision. As an audience, we felt privileged to gain this insightful glimpse; especially when the conception of a writer and director was fully realised on stage.
Designer, Dale Ferguson, has shaped an awe-inspiring space with one of the most impressive set designs ever witnessed. The set resembled a sheik, upper-class, swanky apartment, with modern interior décor and minimalist furniture in black and white hues. The neutral colour palette featured crisp lines and metal materials to employ a sense of simplicity and elegance, completely on-trend. The wondrous construction that flowed from living space with an expensive concealed kitchen to an upstairs bedroom and ensuite, had stylish embellishments and made you want to move right on in.
Another impressive element was the floor to ceiling bay window that overlooked streets and neighbours, which gave audiences a sense of height, elevating us in the space of the proposed apartment block. Outside the window, water trickled down the frames, reflecting the bad weather outside, and Lighting Designer, Ben Hughes, magically transitioned us from sunset to sunrise. As an actual working apartment, the set featured dim lights for different rooms, and it really looked authentic when it functioned as a complete house.
Sound Designer, Guy Webster, created a chic vibe upon entrance into the Cremorne Theatre, with upbeat French-influenced music that engaged the culture of Paris itself. For those who may have already visited the illuminating city, it instantly reminded audiences of its suave features and conjured desires to venture back there. The impressive soundtrack filtered throughout the production via a record player, connecting scenes from one to the next.
In a lovely comedic collision, the two couples within the storyline are presented as polar opposites – especially in relation to domestic politics and personal ethics. Portraying the Parisian couple named Lea and Surge, actors Melanie Zanetti and Pacharo Mzembe both floated on air as the perfect pair. Their mannerisms and accents were incredibly well done, kudos to Accent Coach Helen Howard, especially in moments where it looked like they searched for the appropriate English word or where they couldn’t fully understand the Australian slang. The chemistry between the pair was vigorous and fresh, with unadulterated passion and a zest for the wild adventures life has to offer. Zanetti was equal amounts uptight and determined as the National Geographic photographer, while Mzembe was doting and willing as a retired Soccer superstar and Doctor.
As the middle-aged, down-to-Earth, Aussie-battlers, Meg and Rooster, real-life couple Liz Buchanan and Andrew Buchanan delivered the heartfelt roles with conviction. Their dialogue was filled with many moments of truth, as we rode an emotional marriage rollercoaster of honesty, love and desperation. The pair gave standout performances in roles actors only dream of, even as they try to reinvigorate their characters’ relationship, which has been lost along the way. Liz’s expressions were genuine and charismatic as the overworked and lonely full-time mum, and Andrew was there to match her as the comic relief school teacher and true-blue larrikin.
Murray-Smith’s script balanced these contrasting couples with much glee. In each unique pairing, the actors worked together successfully, finishing each other’s sentences and delivering believable chemistry. The quippy dialogue moved along with rhythm and pace, and the audience felt like outsiders voyeuristically looking in.
‘L’Appartement’ is a script that is bound to become a household name and a treat within the creative arts community. If you’re looking for your own getaway, this is the trip worth taking. The production exudes relevance, with a contemporary societal point of view, and audiences won’t be disappointed. Book your tickets while you can – Bravo!
‘L’Appartement’ performs until Saturday, 31 August 2019. To grab your ticket, visit Queensland Theatre’s Website – L’Appartement.