Award-winning UK writer Jez Butterworth (Mojo, Jerusalem) continues to explore men and masculinity in The River, which has its Australian premiere at Red Stitch.
A man (Dion Mills) has brought his girlfriend (Ngaire Dawn Fair) to his cabin by a lake and convinces her to come fishing on a moonless night. On his return, he frantically tries to call the police because he can’t find her, but she comes back and is different woman (Christina O’Neil). The night continues with the women – who are seen how the man remembers them – alternating in each scene, creating a mystery that questions time and identity but may have its answer in a much baser reality.
Director John Kachyon returns to Red Stitch (his last show was Midsummer in 2012) and again creates an intimacy that is often missing in the small theatre that can leave its audience feeling distanced from the stage. With a realism design by Chloe Greaves, the performance space is moved to the centre of the room with four rows of seating on either side. This creates interrupted views and others so close that it’d be easy to touch the actors.
The intimate realism is continued with contained and honest performances that let the characters, rather than the actors, control the action. There are still moments of the actors being too aware of being watched, but Butterworth’s elongated scenes of moving furniture or gutting a fish create space where the acting disappears and the audience feel like invisible voyeurs.