Theatre review: Closer, La Boite Theatre

An enthralling tale about the contentious nature of love and lust.
Four people lie entwined in a group, they are all wearing white or cream coloured clothes. Closer. La Boite Theatre.

Patrick Marber’s titillating play, Closer, premiered in 1997 and has won several awards since then. It has been performed in over 200 cities, including at La Boite 24 years ago. This rendition was directed by directed by La Boite Artistic Director Courtney Stewart, features an all-Queenslander cast and should appeal to both new and old audiences alike. The theatre space allows audiences to view the work from different angles, adding dynamism and intrigue to how the play is experienced. 

Over many years Closer follows the relationships between out-of-towner Alice, photographer Anna, obituary writer Dan and dermatologist Larry, as they learn about each other, pursue one another, form fragile bonds, separate and find ways to rekindle their bonds.

It opens with an encounter between Alice and Dan. Though they are intrigued by one another, Dan discloses that he is already in a relationship. Yet their attraction is palpable and forms the basis of them beginning a new relationship. Not long after, while dating Alice, Dan meets Anna, for whom he also develops feelings. There are other indiscretions at play, online and in real life.

The play speaks to the complexities of navigating attraction and the fraught boundaries between fidelity and desire. None of the characters seems to strongly consider the implications of pursuing other relationships while tied to someone else.

Closer invites audiences to consider what they would do when faced with a choice between honesty and fidelity, and giving into lust and desire. As their relationships unfold and the truth is unmasked, the characters consider the consequences of their actions and see both value and tension in the bonds they have forged with one another. A shared loss forces each of them to consider the implications and impacts of their decisions. 

The set is modular and allows different elements to be brought onstage with ease, with the storytelling not interrupted by the cast and crew transforming the set. The lighting is rich and creates an ambient atmosphere that works effectively to convey the emotional tenor of each scene.

Set and costume designer, M’ck McKeague, and lighting designer, Glenn Hughes, have successfully collaborated to visually communicate the world of the characters. While the British accents are poorly executed, this does not distract from otherwise strong performances from the cast. The play achieves an level of realism through, for example, the lighting and smoking of cigarettes onstage. The cast also handles onstage intimacy well, although the kissing scenes are at times awkward. Nonetheless, these scenes do not feel indulgent. 

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Closer is suitable for audiences whether or not they are familiar with Patrick Marber’s work, including the 2004 film adaptation. While the performances in the La Boite production do not rival those in the film, they are nonetheless strong. Audiences of the play will walk away with an appreciation of the role of desire in shaping our orientation to the world, ourselves and others.

Closer by Patrick Marber
La Boite Theatre, Brisbane
Playwright: Patrick Marber
Director: Courtney Stewart
Set and Costume Designer: M’ck McKeague
Lighting Designer: Glenn Hughes
Sound Designer and Composer: Wil Hughes
Fight, Intimacy and Movement Director: Nigel Poulton
Creative Consultant: Eli Free
MakeUp SFX: Nicholas James

Cast: Sophia Emberson-Bain, Kevin Spink, Colin Smith, Anna McGahan

Tickets: $29-$65.

Closer will be performed until 20 April 2024.

Tinashe Jakwa is a writer. She lives in Brisbane/Meanjin and likes quiet, nature, and sincerity.