Softly, Softly, performed at Collection Bar in Richmond is a no-frills production, where the actors have no costumes, props to support their performance, leaving them with nowhere to hide.
I knew this would be a test for the performers and if they were capable of holding the audience’s attention for the performance’s entirety. Admittedly, I was unsure if I would enjoy such a performance that was so stripped back.
The venue, Collection Bar is perfect for something like Softly, Softly. The audience can get comfy, have a cocktail, some tasty foods, and a unique theatre experience. Softly, Softly is broken into three parts, a performance of two short plays from Australian writers and the finale, a preview of Quiet Roar’s upcoming production. The cast is also minimal, just two performers; Erica Chestnut and Ellen O’Connor, both of which were stellar performers. It never once seemed that one was trying to outperform the other, rather, they worked perfectly alongside each other.
The first play was Water Babies written by Maeve Hook. This short play details siblings, Rochy (Chestnut) and Arlo (O’Connor) who have a chance encounter with a giant squid that has washed up on the beach. Although the full story for the siblings isn’t revealed, what can be understood is that both are experiencing a great amount of loss, and it is their support for each other that is helping them survive the pain.
After a short interval, and a fancy cocktail, Therapy, written by Barbara Yazbeck was next. Chestnut plays a woman coming to see a massage therapist (O’Connor) for some much-needed respite from the stress of her life. After the years that humanity have collectively spent in lockdowns and quarantine, it will never be surprising when a workplace has had those years imprinted on them.
Although not a direct reflection of post-lockdown life, the stress that we all felt coming back into society were already there. Both pieces performed truly demonstrated each performers talent. But for me, there was just something about Therapy that I found exemplified this the most.
I really enjoyed Softly, Softly the venue was comfortable and intimate, and both short plays were neither confronting nor pretentious. Instead, they were witty and entertaining. Director, Lennie Messing has curated a night of theatre that is unique, entertaining, will be accessible to all, and is actually a great introduction to theatre.
Quiet Roar’s Softly, Softly is playing at Collection Bar in Richmond, Melbourne on Tuesdays in February and have remaining dates on the 21st and 28th. We attended the performance on the 14th for the purpose of this review.
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Photography by Clare Hamer.