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November 14, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Time’s Arrow – the Birnam Wood theatre collective

Time’s Arrow – click here for more information


Part of the MelBorn reborn 2011 series, the Birnam Wood theatre collective has produced an interesting and complex script about psychological trauma while keeping the melodrama in check.

Simon (Mike McEvoy) is the sole survivor of a commercial airline disaster. Kelly (Cindy Elliott) is the flight attendant who missed her shift on the same flight by pure chance, and Laura (Christina Costigan) is the pragmatic psychologist tasked with helping Simon back into the land of the living. This type of storyline could be the start of a tear-jerking soap-opera in the wrong hands, but Woollard has chosen to keep the melodrama low. This is especially wise, given Time’s Arrow is a play infused with constant reminders about the futility of life, the pointlessness of time and the unexpected psychological implications of sexual intimacy.

Mark Andrew’s challenging script does suffer from some jarring jumps in tone and pacing, but it also demonstrates Andrew’s ability to paint a portrait of the two major players, Kelly and Mike, without being overly expositional. Some of the dialogue can be a little uneven at times, with sudden topic shifts and unexpected swings from emotionally intense moments to witty banter. Yet the divergent emotional paths of Kelly and Simon retain the audience’s attention throughout; while Simon retreats into casual sex as a balm for his emotional wounds, Kelly uses it as a form of punishment for inadvertently escaping death. Psychologist Laura has opportunities to poke and prod them both, and while this does go some way towards deconstructing a complex web of fate and chance, she could have been better utilised as an access point for the audience. As the only one asking probing questions of the couple, she just isn’t enough to give us a clear portrait of the demons that chase Simon and Kelly.

There are moments of clarity; Kelly’s reaction to Simon’s (rather mild) sexual violence is testament to how differently both characters are dealing with their grief. It would have been hugely illustrative to see more of these revelatory moments, because this is a play that teeters on the edge of being absorbing, yet falls just short of its aim. The audience doesn’t have quite enough meaty character development to sink their claws into, but it’s certainly not a play you can dismiss on the grounds of lack of thought. Time’s Arrow clearly tries to present well-worn topics (sex and grief) in a new light, and it was refreshing to see a group of people skilfully take up the challenge.

Mark Andrew demonstrates a capacity for compassionate and intense drama, using original and interesting characters. Kelly and Simon are taunted by separate demons yet united by the same grief. Some awkward dialogue and scene changes keep the audience at arm’s length, but the odd moment of intense revelation does suggest this is a writer with potential, and a cast who know how to make devastation more compelling by holding back.

Season: (season now closed) 1 – 12 November 2011

Writer: Mark Andrew

Director: Shannon Woollard

Cast: Mike McEvoy (Simon), Cindy Elliott (Kelly), Christina Costigan (Laura)

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton


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