The Approach, directed by Deborah Jones and playing at Sydney’s Flight Path Theatre, is a wonderfully complex show. Full of twists and turns, it provides a scarily realistic take on how nasty people can be.
Written by Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe, The Approach explores the breakdown of a friendship. That friendship, between Denise (Sarah Jane Starr), Anna (Linda Nicholls-Gidley) and Cora (Lindsey Chapman), will not be easy to save; the first scene quickly establishes that Denise and Anna cannot stand each other. The attempt to reconcile that friendship plays out over a series of conversations, held only between two characters at any given time.
Jones’ decision to closely follow O’Rowe’s script – dialogue-heavy and not big on lighting or production elements – achieves mixed success. There are great moments of comedy and stillness in the play, usually brought on by a character’s ego or manipulation. But such moments are often interrupted by filler content – words which are spoken purely for the sake of it. Though this reflects how real-life conversations go, the script’s excessive quantity of them does not translate effectively to the stage. As a consequence, the scenes become akin to a roller-coaster – high points of tension or comic relief, followed by sudden drops in energy.
The performances, however, are more consistent. Nicholls-Gidley plays Anna’s snooty, narcissistic personality worryingly well. She captures her dominating nature perfectly, oozing control with every word. No matter what Nicholls-Gidley’s doing, she is delightfully watchable. Starr has similarly strong moments, playing Denise’s nuances with elegance and impact. The palpable animosity she creates when Anna and Denise meet works strongly in the play’s favour, though it unfortunately means that Nicholls-Gidley is more captivating once again. Chapman’s Cora is a nice middle ground between Anna and Denise. She plays Cora’s mediator-esque character with a great calming presence, stabilising the tension between the other two characters.
Ultimately, The Approach succeeds in showing the harms of a broken friendship, despite being dialogue-heavy. Though some of that dialogue could have been shaved, it does not dilute the themes the play aims to present.
While The Approach may simply appear to be a set of conversations, there really is much more to it than what meets the eye.
Flight Path Theatre
Director: Deborah Jones
Cast: Linda Nicholls-Gidley, Lindsey Chapman, Sarah Jane Starr
Writer: Mark O’Rowe
Lighting Designer: Alex Holver
Sound Designer: Kieran Camejo
Stage Manager: Natalie Baghoumian
Assistant Director: Olivia Bartha
The Approach will be performed until 2 September 2023 at Flight Path Theatre; tickets from $35.