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A tense and captivating ride

Review: An Almost Perfect Thing, Gabrielle Metcalf –
The Blue Room Theatre, 15 August –
Reviewed by Claire Trolio –

Three characters search for connection: an abductee, her kidnapper and a journalist. Nicole Moeller’s psychological thriller An Almost Perfect Thing has been brought to life by Perth director Gabrielle Metcalf, at the Blue Room Theatre.

Chloe (Daisy Coyle) has been held captive for the last six years. Taken when she was 12 years old, we meet an 18 year old Chloe running, gasping as she finds her way home. Past Oak, Pine and Crabapple Streets she makes it to her father’s house, and what follows is her story. But is it her story; can she own it? An Almost Perfect Thing is a clever discourse on who has the right to the truth when it is the victim who holds the answers.

It’s a recognisable tale: a young girl is captured to re-emerge later. When she does, the police want the facts and the public feel entitled to know the truth about what happened to her. The play questions whether a victim has an obligation to share what she knows (not least to prevent future crimes) and also contemplates the motive behind protecting her attacker. Coyle’s portrayal of Chloe reveals the character’s intelligence and strength, whilst wrestling with trauma and vulnerability. She’s a girl who wants to discover normality at the same time as relishing her celebrity status.

For every captive there is a captor, and Mathew (Nick Maclaine) is a lost man… introverted, alone and desperate for a family. He’s a monster, but he too is a victim. Not much is said of it, but a complicated relationship with his own parents seems to have led to his psychiatric illness and compulsion to “save” Chloe by abducting her.

The third character is Greg (Andrew Hale), a struggling journalist who wrote about Chloe’s disappearance six years earlier. Chloe chooses to reveal her story to Greg so that it will be published in a manner that she regulates. The power struggle between Chloe, obsessed with control; Greg, who is  desperate for a good story as much as he is captivated by its subject; and the public’s demand for answers is a tense and captivating ride.

L to R: Nick Maclaine (Mathew), Daisy Coyle (Chloe), Andrew Hale (Greg). Photo: Pixel Poetry.

The tensions are compounded by Christian Peterson and Andrew Michie’s sound design. A simple sound score quickly transports us to the inside of a bar and out again with no need for a set change. But it’s the addition of a jarringly high pitched note at crucial times that makes us feel the characters’ anxieties, anguish and lack of control. It’s remarkably effective.

Meanwhile, set and costume designer Tyler Hill, who recently made his mark designing for Black Swan State Theatre Company’s Endgame and The Eisteddfod, shows why he’s in high demand. The blackened set is at once confined (dark and boxy) and free (nothing physical demarcates time and place), covered in dismembered mannequins that reflect the fragmented selves of the characters. Hill’s set helps question whether Chloe’s newfound freedom is in fact illusory as she remains suffocated beneath a bodyguard and her psychological trauma.

In the session I attended something seemed to be distracting the actors, causing a number of dialogue errors by each of the three on stage. Fortunately the misjudged cues compounded a feeling of confusion, torment and powerlessness that was a major part of each characters’ psyche, rather than detracting from my enjoyment.

Running at just under two hours, An Almost Perfect Thing is longer than usual for a production at the Blue Room, yet doesn’t feel it. Every one of the 110 minutes is compelling theatre, a suspenseful piece that caught me off guard and stayed with me long after leaving the theatre.

An Almost Perfect Thing plays the Blue Room Theatre until 26 August.

Pictured top: Nick Maclaine (Mathew) and Daisy Coyle (Chloe). Photo: Pixel Poetry.

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