The Hypotheticals is a contemporary tale of potential baby-making that’s thoughtful, refreshing and pleasingly subversive, says Claire Trolio.
The Hypotheticals, The Last Great Hunt
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA, 29 July 2023
To have a baby, or not have a baby? What a huge question, and one I spent years pondering. The decision seemed so easy for those around me, one way or the other.
But was it?
The Last Great Hunt’s The Hypotheticals sees two best friends, a partnered gay man (“the man”, Jeffrey Jay Fowler), and a single straight woman (“the woman”, Sarah Reuben) deliberating over whether or not to have a baby together. How refreshing it is to see this alternative narrative of baby making discussed, and a conversation happening where procreative desire is not a given.
Written and performed by Fowler and Reuben, The Hypotheticals is deeply personal but not completely autobiographical. Reuben and Fowler break the fourth wall to make this clear from the get go, the result is a charming, relatable show delivered in a storytelling style. The two performers provide a chemistry that’s palpable for a celebration of friendship with all its ups and downs.
The characters’ lives – as two friends in their mid-thirties living in Perth – are joyously familiar. As they explore hypothetical futures, their conversations address climate change, financial concerns, sexuality, legacy and religion, and how these relate to parenthood.
The work considers what makes a good parent and especially a good co-parent. It acknowledges that the best person to have a baby with might not be a romantic partner. It also allows its characters to imagine futures without children – that these might be better than the alternative. In this way it even feels a bit subversive.
The storyline has a whiff of cheesiness and convenience, nevertheless the writing is superb – particularly a perfectly satisfying and unanticipated ending. It’s performed just as brilliantly; a few tripped lines on opening night were inconsequential. It’s also really funny.
The Hypotheticals enjoyed a first run in Darwin in 2021, and comes to the State Theatre Centre with Adam Mitchell capably taking the reins as director this time around. It’s shiny and polished with a tight script and neat packaging.
Inside the black box of Studio Underground, strips of neon lighting in three dimensions create a crisp rectangle, which houses a timber and concrete island style bench and a couple of seats. Designer Matthew McVeigh’s clean lines focus our attention on the performers, as does moody side lighting from Peter Young.
McVeigh’s set is used to advantage by choreographer Laura Boynes. She brings elements of dance into the otherwise dialogue heavy performance, stylising everyday actions (walking, fitness classes, cooking) with rhythmic, repetitive movement to deliver scene and context. Reuben and Fowler’s smooth movements, coupled with a cadent, electronic soundscape from Louis Frere-Harvey, keep the show moving to a beat.
Altogether, The Hypotheticals has a mesmerising quality that makes for easy viewing. Its characters are charismatic, its story contemporary. It’s great.
Pictured top: Jeffery Jay Fowler and Sarah Reuben in ‘The Hypotheticals’. Photo: supplied
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