2.20 AM - Ad Astra duo

‘2:20 AM’ // Ad Astra

‘2:20 AM’ was moving.

“Shame, fear, numbing sadness; guilt, anger; the endless why…”

Ad Astra’s production of ‘2.20 AM’ was an intimate portrayal of four people affected by the suicide of a family member and the often-contradictory emotions they are left to process.

At times heart-rending, the 80-minute show also spurred enthusiastic laughter from the seven audience members sitting in the socially distanced seats of the small Fortitude Valley venue. Direction by Jacqueline Kerr and the talents of the four cast members allowed for surprisingly quick changes in mood: one minute, tears welling up; the next, a clever joke that left us smiling.

Originally shown in 2018 in Melbourne, and based partly on Aussie playwright Rebecca Lister’s own experiences as a facilitator of writing classes for those bereaved by suicide, ‘2:20 AM’ follows four people over the course of their weekly sessions as they get to know each other and diverge the details of the event that has changed their lives.

Emma, the facilitator, is well-played by Caitlyn Leo, who tries to keep the classes—and her family—on track; Sandra Harman is heart-warming as Trish, the mother figure, who brings terrible meals for her creative writing classmates in an effort to stay busy and put on a happy face; Georgia Shaw immediately delighted the audience as Stella, a precocious young woman whose acerbic tongue and anger often dominates the scenes (one sequence involving a tennis ball was particularly creative and passionately performed).

Gregory J Wilken as Dave offered a poignant performance. His character’s devastation had an overwhelming sense of loss brimming under the surface of a rough, ‘tradie’ exterior, as he explains the tragedy that brought him to the class: “‘Is anything missing?’ the copper asked me. ‘Yeah mate, one-quarter of my family is in your van.’”

With no set changes, variations in lighting were used to signal movements inside and outside the class, or inside and outside the minds of the four characters. Overall, this was very effective despite the small stage. There may have been an opportunity for a tableau (to freeze the actors) “inside” the class, so as not to distract from a very emotional scene taking place “outside” between Stella and Trish. Tableau was very effective in scenes where the audience was given glimpses into the characters’ lives outside of the writing class.

Sound design was also minimal. The familiar whoosh of a train plus two songs to help tell Dave’s story were effective in drawing the audience along the emotional journey. Consideration could be taken to the music playing before the show and during the interval, as it stood out and disconnected the tone of the production.

‘2.20 AM’ was fuelled by the excellent chemistry between characters; it was captivating to watch their group dynamic evolve over the weekly classes and see the plot driven by the writing assignments or workshops. In one such workshop, the characters take turns repeating various reactions to suicide they’d heard from strangers, friends and family members. It was a powerful reminder that though well-intentioned, many replies come across as judgmental or plain ridiculous (comparing losing a father to losing a cat, for example).

The overall delivery of Ad Astra’s production of ‘2:20 AM’ was compelling with real emotion on display. It also served as a reminder of the comfort that can be found in a shared experience.

‘2.20 AM’ runs until Saturday, 28 November 2020 at Ad Astra in the Fortitude Valley. For more information, visit the Ad Astra Facebook page or website.

Disclaimer: Cast / Production Members working on this show also work for Theatre Haus, but rest assured, we always take steps to ensure our reviews maintain their integrity and are free from bias. 

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