We fear the unfulfilled life.
In the world as we know it, full of aspiration and glamour, there is something monstrous about coming to our end full of regret.
In Do Not Go Gentle, the latest work from Patricia Cornelius puts a group of ageing characters out on the ice to face their lives, their choices and their challenges. And they do it through the goggles of the ill-fated antarctic explorer Robert Scott.
Here ageing feels a bleak prospect. The five explorers battle fierce winds, biting cold and their own minds to complete the fictitious journey led by their own explorer, Scott.
It’s an unusual premise, and one that is hardly flattering of the aged care industry. Their home is as barren as the icy tundra that their other selves trudge through daily.
The stage is vast, occupying the full length of the warehouse space and also occasionally spilling out beyond the building, with action we can only see through windows.
We feel the cold expanse, the lack of intimacy. It’s too cold to touch. Part of the pressed tin ceiling hangs down to create a curtain of sorts. It’s both run down institution and ice sheet.
The characters range from the deluded and the ill-tempered to the unbearably cheerful but it’s not long before the curtain is lifted on their histories beyond the ice.
If it weren’t for the perfect casting, this play could have descended into an ultra stylised and ultimately meaningless couple of hours.
The lines are precise, the timing is critical and despite a few first night hiccups,beautifully played.
Anne Phelan’s Wilson delivers a heart-breaking performance and steals the show. Pamela Rabe’s Bowers is a mix of discipline and complexity, and Rhys McConnochie gives a solid showing as Scott.
One memorable scene sums up the show’s delicacy when Evans (Terry Norris) and Oates (Malcolm Robertson), two hard-headed old bastards, discuss how bewildered they’ve always been of the emblematic man-son relationship. Even at the end of their long lives, that kind of intimacy mystifies them.
Lighting is functional and swift, sound design, a little on the heavy side. It does however feature some beautiful operatic pieces deftly sung by Jan Friedl (Maria).
Do Not Go Gentle, a line taken from a Dylan Thomas poem urging his father to continue as a strong man in his old age is a perfect umbrella for this work.
Director Julian Meyrick has done a respectable job with a script that allows for complex interactions and strong interpretation.
In less experienced hands Do Not Go Gentle could have descended into parody or over-sentimentality.
An entertaining and thoughful package, you’ll be unsurprised to learn this is a mutliple award winning play.
Do Not Go Gentle is on at Fortyfivedownstairs until 29th August.