Theatre review: Two of Them, Adelaide Fringe

An absurd mix of text, movement and animation.
Two of Them. Two men in business suits on a stage. One is in the centre with his arms outstretched to the side, the other sitting behind on a stool with his arm in a sling. There are two abstract projections of spheres on the back wall.

Two of Them, directed by Russell Fewster is a new absurdist work inspired by Chris Orchard’s artworks that feature a bald man in a business suit. In the play, we do actually meet two bald businessmen (Nick Bennett and Dominique Sweeney), one of them at the start of finding himself and the other further exploring his spirituality.

The two journeys become entangled and slowly reveal themselves, complemented by projections of Orchard’s animated artworks and a sophisticated lighting design. The production has room to grow in pushing the script’s comedic elements and further utilising the animation.

The performance commences in the foyer, where the two men provide an introduction to themselves through chatting with each other before inviting the audience into the main performance space. This preamble makes the play feel as if it has a prologue and, while their conversation does deliver useful information, this news could have easily been shared on the actual stage. This is also the only time the cast resort to breaking the fourth wall, to usher the audience into the space.

The main performance space is a small black room with the seats positioned on all sides of the square. It’s not only a good use of the available arena, but also creates a more intimate aesthetic. However, the projection screens on all four sides are positioned up high so the images don’t fill the space. A beautiful blue pencil sketch to symbolise the sky becomes slightly disconnected from the actors, as though the images are subtitles.

The animations are beautiful pencil sketches brought to life through simple movements that provide additional support to the cast.

The script shows masterful control of using simple conversation to build on the themes of self-actualisation, environment and control. A highlight is the reference to the ‘canary in the coal mine’, which the businessmen then debate should now be ‘kookaburra in the solar farm’.

Its serious themes notwithstanding, Two of Them is a humorous play. As the businessmen fill out a form to visit a forest, the form just becomes longer, tangling around them. The director, Fewster, leans into the humour but doesn’t push it, so it only stirs a chuckle rather than a full laugh. All the jokes land this way, holding the play back from its humour being completely realised. 

Another cast member that shines is Sophie Hollingsworth, who plays Fate. She allows the audience to see how little control the businessmen have over their lives, but also where they have moments of choice by manipulating the set around them. While she has minimal lines, Hollingsworth’s presence still feels fully developed and she embodies a sense of being unstoppable, living up to her character’s name and purpose.

The lighting throughout this production is clever and restrained – it adds depths to the scenes by adding colour and texture sparingly. The lighting design is just as much about the dark as the light and so it pulls focus on Bennett and Sweeny just as they need it.

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Fewster and his team have injected fresh energy into the absurdist genre. This production needs a couple of tweaks to tap into its potential humour and it needs to utilise animation a bit more, but it’s nevertheless a treat for theatre lovers.

Two of Them by Russell Fewster, presented by Shifting Lives Theatre
Lecture Gallery at MOD at UniSA
Cast: Nick Bennett, Dominique Sweeney, Sophie Hollingsworth
Tickets: $23-$28

Two of Them will be performed until 9 March 2024 as part of Adelaide Fringe.

Anita Sanders is a writer based in South Australia. She has written for radio, print and stage including The City street magazine, Radio Adelaide and South Australian Youth Arts Company. She is a graduate of Flinders University’s Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) and Deakin University’s Graduate Certificate of Business (Arts & Cultural Management).