My Zinc Bed, by Sir David Hare | Directed by Mark Kilmurry

Ensemble Theatre | Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli, Sydney | Until 22 November

Sir David Hare has dominated the modern English stage for many decades with much of his work focusing on political issues. In My Zinc Bed he combines both the political and psychological as he examines and challenges our collective modern Western beliefs and attitudes on the abyss of addiction and the varying layers that this topic encompasses.

Dramatically Hare presents his ideas as a triangular tale involving an unemployed journalist/wannabe writer Paul Peplow (Sam O’Sullivan), and an internet entrepreneur Victor Quinn (Sean Taylor) and his wife Elsa (Danielle Carter).

The plot is deceptively simple. Paul arrives to interview Quinn for a newspaper, ends up employed by Quinn and has an affair with Quinn’s wife. Hardly riveting drama one would think. However, Hare uses this conceit to examine many topics that surround the nature of addiction: the role of cults, the nature of desire and the impermanence of existence.

Hare’s writing is superb — sharp, suggestive and provocative, and the actors embody the characters perfectly, creating the necessary tension that signals to the audience the dangers of the game that is being played out. Sam O’Sullivan, as the tortured poet, delivers the precise level of intensity and despair. With apparently minimal effort he expertly conveys the multiple contradictions of this complex character.

Danielle Carter as Elsa, the rescued wife of Quinn, lures the susceptible poet into an emotional entanglement. Her role is less sharply written, resulting in a sketchier rendition of a woman rescued by a man and then led astray by a man. But it is Sean Taylor as Victor Quinn who steals the show. He is creepily charming and charismatic as the former communist turned multi-millionaire who for unestablished reasons decides to play the role of a Faustian puppet master.

The dialogue is also purposefully elusive, but Mark Kilmurry’s perfect production makes this complex subject convincingly accessible. His intelligent direction focuses on both the comic and dark aspects of the text, resulting in a meditation on utopian dreams and dystopian reality in a sophisticated theatrical framework.

The Ensemble is a perfect venue for the intimate nature of this work and Tobhiyah Stone Feller’s chicly stark set design and Nicholas Higgins’ sensuous lighting design, suggesting a Mark Rothko acquisition on the wall, provide further layers that contribute to make this an outstanding rendition of an enigmatic and thought-provoking play.

Thumbs up!

Above: Danielle Carter and Sam O'Sullivan. Below: Danielle Carter and Sean Taylor. Images: Clare Hawley.

Sean Taylor and Sam O'Sullivan.