Photo: Christophe Raynaud de Lage

Where to start with a show like The Confessions? It’s far from a conventional play – we’re not here to see a straightforward story, a snapshot into a moment in time with everything nicely wrapped up two hours later. Instead, The Confessions is based on the life of Alice, who is the mother of the play’s writer Alexander Zeldin. We’re essentially navigating her life story here, told from the moment she graduates high school in Australia in 1943 through to a near present-day London. Alice considers herself to have lived an ordinary, unremarkable life; The Confessions explores the idea that everybody has a story worth sharing.

The result is a play that is both intimate and epic. All of the action – with a couple of notable exceptions – feels somewhat pedestrian, almost mundane: the majority of scenes play out in kitchens, dining rooms and living rooms in Alice’s various abodes through the decades. We meet her friends, her relatives, her love interests, we’re privy to their conversations and their arguments. Yet the sheer scale of the show – attempting to condense the key moments of multiple decades into two hours (straight through, no interval) makes everything seem altogether much bigger.

What this play does extremely effectively is challenge us with ethical dilemmas. In amongst all the day-to-day activity there are a handful of hard-hitting scenes: although we don’t witness an episode of abuse, we become aware that it’s happening, and we see the aftermath and how everyone reacts to what’s just happened, which challenged us as an audience to consider how we might react. There’s also a poignant, private moment of grief which takes an absurd, almost comedic turn – again we considered how we might handle that situation as it unfolded.

We would say, however, that we felt something of a disconnect with what was happening on stage – with so many events condensed into such a short timeframe, it’s difficult to invest too much emotionally in any character apart from Alice herself.  Having an older Alice (Amelda Brown) present almost throughout, observing and commenting on the action, while the younger Alice (Eryn Jean Norvill) plays out each scene is an excellent device. However we left feeling that The Confessions presents a clever consideration of an ordinary life, but not a compelling story that we were invested in.

GAY TIMES gives The Confessions – 3/5

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