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THEATRE: 26 OCTOBER 2015

By TONI CARROLL

Blood Bank, Christopher Harley | Directed by Anthony Skuse

Ensemble Theatre (ensemble.com.au) | Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli, Sydney | Until 22 November

Blood, literally or figuratively, represents life, death, family, emotion, energy. Playwright Christopher Harley captures its essence in Blood Bank, developed as part of the Ensemble’s Spring Reading program.

For a company whose staple fare is the likes of Ladies in Lavender, Educating Rita, The Shoe-Horn Sonata, The Book Club and anything by David Williamson, Blood Bank provides a refreshing and exciting change of style.

The play chronicles the developing relationships between two brothers and the seemingly scatty Abbey (Gabrielle Scawthorn) within the confines of a hospital waiting room. Justin and Michael (both played by Tom Stokes) have the bond of blood, in more ways than one. Meredith Penman plays the harried and earthy nurse who provides a few moments of perspective to the brothers’ relationship.

After a strong and captivating start by Scawthorn, the facades of these characters are peeled away until we can start to see who they truly are and what they mean to each other. Stokes portrayal of the two brothers, sometimes switching from one character to the other in a heartbeat, is fascinating to watch. AV designer Tim Hope’s video impressions of the brothers and their past provide a haunting insight into their current relationship.

Tobhiyah Stone Fellers design and Nicholas Higgins’ lighting is minimalist, accentuating the actors’ and Hope’s excellent work.

After such a strong start and fine performances all around it’s disappointing that the pace starts to drag towards the end. What is generally a tightly packed show with great flowing energy seems to lose direction and impetus, dwindling to little more than a trickle. But with the talent of this cast and crew, headed by director Anthony Skuse, I’m sure more time with audiences over the run of the show will remedy this.