WORDS BY TARA CAMPBELL
Good theatre is supposed to make you stop and think, and that’s precisely what Plaques & Tangles did.
The Plaques & Tangles Australian Premiere, presented by ATWEA College and Deodorant Can Productions took place on Thursday 15 April 2021. The play, written by Nicola Wilson is unlike any production Australia, let alone the Creative Arts Space in Newcastle, has ever seen.
“Days before her wedding Megan discovers she has a 50/50 chance of developing early onset Alzheimer’s. Years later she’s offered a genetic test. But if she’s got the gene, does she really want to know?
Megan, 21. Megan, 47. Megan, 32. Megan, 27.
One woman, lurches through time while her young family deal with the consequences.”
Plaques & Tangles, directed by Sam Hawkins and assistant directed by Alexandra Jensen features a small cast of talented and memorable actors that take you through the heart wrenching journey no one ever wants to comprehend, the journey of losing your mind.
Would you want to know if you had the gene, or would it only make things worse?
The play revolves around Megan, played by the exceptional Jan Hunt, with Young Megan performed by Annie Wilson. Through heartbreaking moments contrasted by comedic scenes, we follow the journey and life of Megan, through the ups and downs as she begins to lose her mind to early on-set Alzheimer’s. Jan portrays the character of Megan with a complexity and authenticity unlike anything I’ve seen before, perfectly complimented by Jez, her husband (Paul Sansom). Between the two of them, there is a genuine connection that manages to rip your heart strings out in some of the more intimate and thought-provoking scenes.
Aiden Cope plays Young Jez, a witty and truly ‘Aussie’ character. With complexity, he manages to get the line between comedic and intelligent just right, perfectly cast alongside Annie Wilson (Young Megan) who delivers a realistic and complex performance that is truly admirable. The scenes between these two actors seemed entirely realistic with a sense of familiarity to younger viewers.
Stand out moments of the play included an intimate scene between Jez and Megan. Megan begins to become frustrated with her condition and breaks down with a final line noting that the worst thing is that she doesn’t know when to say goodbye.
Megan’s children, Ned (Luke Barker) and Lila (Jessica Morgan) are an excellent choice in cast. I felt the pain and frustration yet, the love and desire to be there for their mother alongside the characters. Jessica Morgan shows her complex acting skills with Lila’s crushing scenes as her mother’s mind declines, leaving audiences genuinely heartbroken. Luke Barker played the character of Ned with a rawness that left me sobbing, particularly after a scene with Jez, where he confesses that he just wants to protect his mum. These two young actors held a remarkable presence on stage and certainly have bright acting futures ahead of them.
Chilling moments of synchronisation were held between Megan and her younger self that shocked audiences into thought, contrasted with hilarious comedic scenes between Megan and Jez, acting in an authentic and laughable ‘married old couple’ way.
Aretha Williams shone with her contrasting characters of Barbara and Eva and Olivia Beveridge-March brought audiences along with her delivery of Gwen and the Nurse. Both Aretha and Olivia cleverly took these roles and delivered a performance that flawlessly complimented other scenes in the show.
Highest accolades should be given to Sam Hawkins for staging such a complex and raw show, with a perfect balance of comedy and sadness. With a limited set, Sam managed to stage the show to fill the entire room with emotion. I look forward to seeing what Sam has in store for his next work.
This is a play that you will walk away thinking about for a long time. With only two performances left in the limited Newcastle season, I cannot emphasise strongly enough how much one should attend.
Tickets remaining for 7PM shows on 16 and 17 April 2021.