Students Representative Council, University of Sydney

Review: SUDS’ Great White // Old Times

Tiffany Vaughan explores a two-toned exercise in theatre

the great white

A shark attack and stealing a roommate’s underwear: two very detached concepts are intertwined in SUDS’ Great White // Old Times. Although the two plays are drastically different plot-wise, set forty-two years apart, director Max Peacock unifies them through fear, identity and self-doubt.

Before the show, audience members are soothed with a calm nirvana of waves as they stumble onto the set, as if covered with the ocean’s ebb and flow. Great White is set in a secluded area of the sea, where a shark and a teenage couple are confined, seemingly in order to navigate and move forward from their personal struggles.

Lillian Smith, who plays the shark, bears the ability to express both fearfulness and sympathy as she remains stuck in time. Her relationship with Jack, played by Sean Landis, is portrayed buoyantly, creating dynamism between scenes where they are both wary of each other, and relate with each other, through mutual experiences in high school and their beliefs of “inner greatness.”

After the intermission, the stage transitions from the calm blue to the sound of rain and ringing. This creates a sense of eeriness and discomfort to herald the start of Old Times: a clear representation of the couple’s unresolved marital relations. This is interrupted by a visit from an old friend of the couple’s past.

Deely, the husband in Old Times played by Thomas Hanaee heartily executes feelings of discomfort and self-doubt concerning his control over relations with his wife. Meanwhile, Anna (Serena Dalton) slowly excludes Hanaee as the “odd man out.” This is particularly poignant in the scene where Anna and Kate (Sophia Bryant) converse, and Deeley’s persona oscillates between cocky and aggressive.

The production set is carefully crafted: from the characters’ swimwear and wet hair, to the soft blue and yellow lighting design. The surroundings of the theatre are illuminated, the centre painted as light blue waves.

Though Old Times and Great White are two integrated plays, Margaret Thanos (production design) and Nicole Pignon (costume design) should be proud of the seamless transition between a sea-faring setting and the luxurious country home of a dying marriage in the countryside. The latter set is hyper-authentic, with the accompanying set of lounge chairs and a table with cigarettes and whisky, an the characters in formal 60s attire.

As Jack struggles with fears of the death and adulthood, and as Deeley struggles to compete for Kate’s attention in fear of losing his wife, we see how Max Peacock, alongside producer Camille Karski, artfully construct a performance that reflects underlying themes of fear and identity.