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Reviews/Theatre

Gender bender is timely

19 April 2021

Lit Live’s production of Dan Rebellato’s new radio play You & Me feels timely, even if the script leaves some questions unanswered, writes Kim Kirkman.

You & Me: A Radio Play performed live, Lit Live ·
The Orangery Gallery, 16 April 2021 ·

You & Me is a radio play weighing in on the #metoo movement in a performance that flips the script on the well-worn story of marital infidelity.

This one-night only special edition was presented by local storytelling collective Lit Live, and directed and produced by Sarah McNeill (who also performs one of the play’s minor roles), at Shenton Park’s Orangery Gallery.
 
Writer Dan Rebellato, a leading British radio dramatist, has said that he wanted to create a play about the exploitative and predatory behaviour carried out by men that “kept a space of empathy open to [those men] in order to understand what it might be like to be like that”. 

His method? Cross casting actors to read one another’s scripts, so the main male character in this gender-centric piece is read by a woman, and the lead female character, by a man.  

The play within a play, which was written last year, is rooted firmly in the now, with references to lockdown, Zoom meetings and revamped workplace harassment protocols locating it in a post Covid-19 pandemic and #metoo era world.  

The play’s central characters, too, nod to the shifting gender narratives of our time early on in the piece. They’re actors doing the first read of a script in a London recording studio, and conjure a wooden dialogue for the play’s Tom and Naomi before announcing “they’re not feeling it”, and swapping scripts partway through as an unscheduled experiment.   

The performative cold read revolves around what happens next, as the characters narrate a husband and wife’s impromptu Friday night date night that devolves into an explosive domestic squabble. 

Andrew Hale’s hesitant, appeasing Naomi, infuriatingly apologetic in the face of her husband’s repeated transgressions, is striking performed in a man’s voice.

And you wonder, is Caitlin Beresford-Ord’s “horribly convincing man” Tom less likeable because he’s read by a woman?   
 
The play’s clincher moment, a clever enactment within an enactment within an enactment, in which Tom describes his harassment of an intern at his office in a confession to his wife, brings a sudden new menace to the depiction.  

“She says nothing, and I say nothing… And then I say, ‘You’re lucky I’m a nice guy’,” Tom declares. 

Beresford-Ord and Hale are excellent, convincingly morphing through the endearing awkwardness of the play’s opening characters to the jarring dynamics of their subsequently reversed roles. The energy between the actors is compelling, even as the characters they play feel upside down, and Sarah McNeill’s production is timely and provocative.

But, for a self-described “middle-aged man’s take on the #metoo movement” Rebellato’s play leaves you wanting more answers than it offers.

Pictured top are Caitlin Beresford-Ord and Andrew Hale in ‘You & Me: A Radio Play”. Photo: supplied

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Author —
Kim Kirkman

Kim Kirkman studied journalism and community development, and has worked across the state as a reporter and story gatherer. She loves food and fiction writing and hearing other people’s stories. Always up for a challenge, the monkey bars are her favourite part of the playground.

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