‘Beginning’ was awkward-licious.
David Eldrige’s ‘Beginning’ delighted PIP Theatre’s audience with its story of Laura and Danny, awkwardly navigating their expectations and desires in the after-party early morning hours. Theatregoers could clearly relate to the first date dance, alternating between inane and deeply vulnerable topics of conversation – portrayed with charisma and commitment by Crystal Arons and Jesse Blachut.
The British play’s Australian premiere was independent theatre company Moonspark Productions’ first show, of which Arons is also artistic director.
“I was in the midst of facing the same fears with all the societal pressures about being a woman, with dating and within my personal life,” Arons writes in the program notes.
But what left a lasting impression wasn’t what some may think of when it comes to societal pressures faced by women. The play refreshingly gave Laura’s character that of successful and independent career woman, and confident pursuer when it came to voicing her desire for sex. Blachut as Danny was nervous by her confidence; apologising for his “belly” when they undressed and hilariously putting his self-consciousness on display by saying he was “poorly maintained in the area of the groin.”
Arons acknowledged the notion of the “ideal body” in her program notes and wrote Moonspark’s goal is to “create a female-led company…that fully embraced every body. The reality is that nobody believes their body is perfect…”
Aside from body image and sex, the play explores family dynamics, love and loss, the past’s effect on the future and the idea of courage. Director Heidi Gledhill hoped the audience would “notice how small moments can carry great weight, and how a single word or gesture can reveal depths of vulnerability and longing” and indeed, the performance provided this opportunity.
Gledhill, along with Assistant Director and Dramaturg Desley Martin, Stage Manager Nikita Walter, and Technical Director / Lighting Designer Tim James, should be commended on a well-paced show that intertwined technical elements to keep the audience’s attention. Set exclusively in Laura’s apartment living room, the space was well-used to mirror their interaction: sometimes sitting close on the couch when the chemistry was working well, then at opposite ends of the room when their connection waned. The use of silence was perfect: the delicious awkwardness as looks were exchanged and moments dragged on was relatable. Lighting was subtle: progressively dimming as the evening wore on and the intimacy increased to the romantic end, tastefully orchestrated by Intimacy Director Asabi E. Goodman.
Special kudos to Sound Designer Tommi Civili and Movement Director Victoria Doherty for the liveliest scene: a spontaneous song-and-dance party, during which Laura and Danny seemed to leave their self-consciousness behind to Laura’s energetic playlist.
While the British neighbourhood references may not have landed with everyone in the audience, the sausage-roll-and-Scotch-egg dialogue was a hit – as were the real treats provided for the audience after opening night.
If you’ve ever asked, “Where are the bin bags?” in response to someone telling you to come and kiss them, then this play of romantic communication and miscommunication is for you. Whether you believe every encounter we have has the potential to transform us, as Gledhill suggests in the program notes, ‘Beginning’ will have you thinking about your own past experiences and vulnerabilities, the romantic stops and starts along the way, and what the future may hold.
‘Beginning’ performs until Saturday, 29 July 2023 at PIP Theatre in Milton. For more information visit their website here.