Printable CopyUNDERTOW
Holden Street Theatres
Holden Street Theatres
Until 16 Mar 2019

Review by Anthony Vawser

Presented at the 2019 Adelaide Fringe Festival

It’s always interesting to note when publicity materials prominently feature what turns out to be a line of dialogue from the play they are promoting. When the line in question is the very last one in the show – as is the case with “Undertow” - it’s a strong sign that there is a very specific message that the playwright and the production company are attempting to hammer home, afraid that we in the audience may miss it.

Self-described as a comedy, there are certainly smiles to be found, as well as moments of poignancy and warmth, but “Undertow” is not to be taken for a rib-tickler of any kind. It aims to be a realistic depiction of two flawed human beings with a long history together who are currently facing an uncertain future, due to the various unexpected and unintended consequences of life itself...

Realistic these characterisations may well be, but they also frequently come across as petty and self-centred, as well as broad and shrill, which can make them a struggle to sympathise with. Clayton Storey and Jasmine Fairbairn are clearly gifted performers, but to this reviewer, performers are what they remain for the majority of their time together on stage, as opposed to truly believable partners in a long-term marriage-with-children.

The arc of Fairbairn’s script is both noble and ambitious in its intentions, but as with many medium-length shows like it, those very ambitions feel too challenging to credibly capture in only an hour on stage. Realistic/naturalistic storytelling is a difficult form of theatre to successfully achieve within a limited time-frame, and attempts to add dimension and complexity to the plotting and characterisations, while commendable, too often here feel artificial and contrived.

It seems entirely possible that those whose life experiences closely mirror those of the twin protagonists in “Undertow” will respond more positively to this show – so if the descriptions here sound like they may speak to your personal history and the feelings associated with it, you may wish to judge for yourself.

Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)