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Lunenburg - Harbour Theatre

Reviewed by Paul Treasure

 

Lunenburg is a real life fishing village in Nova Scotia, Canada. The action of the play takes place on the back porch of a house on the outskirts of the town, overlooking the fishing harbour. The set, by Jarrod Buttery, is at first glance a deceptively simple one a few chairs, a table, a door leading into the house, a fence with some flowers. Yet during the course of the play the amount of unassuming details that has been lovingly included becomes more and more apparent, helping to realise characters who cannot speak for themselves.


The play opens with two Americans, Iris and Natalie, arriving at the house, which Iris now owns as part of her newly-deceased husbands estate. A house that, before his death, Iris had not even been aware of.


Meredith Hunter, as Natalie, has the bulk of the work in this play, as her character deals with her friends grief, and with the attentions of the next door neighbour, Charlie. Meredith manages to embody the trickier aspects of her character with apparent effortlessness. The playing with her hair, the subtle shifts in her body language depending whose onstage, her realisations at her condescension to Charlie, and her growing selfishness towards Iris. Natalie, as it turns out, is also a terrible liar, something that can be difficult for an actor to portray believably (actors are, by the very nature of our craft, good liars). Meredith manages to pull of this balancing act brilliantly, leaving us in no doubt she is not being entirely truthful, but also leaving us wondering if the other characters have picked up on this.


The neighbour, Charlie, is played with a believably, yet slightly dorky, laid back charm by Jarrod Buttery. His onstage chemistry with Meredith is obvious, and the way he reacts and counters to her is a testament to the number of times they have been cast opposite each other.


Kate O’Sullivan, as Iris, is an actor with a commanding and charismatic stage presence. As a character whose journey relies more on solitary moments and discoveries, we see Kate clearly portray the complexities of a woman who realises how much of her life has been built on lies, and how she comes to terms with seeking healing and redemption.


There is a fourth major character in the play, Jennifer, who never appears onstage and yet is (ironically) brought to life in loving detail by the other actors, especially Jarrod and Kate, as they talk about her. Kate’s monologue in the second act, addressed to an absent Jennifer, is the highlight of the show.


The history of theatre is littered with plays about broken people hurting other broken people. This play is about how broken people can help other broken people to mend, but that ultimately we have to actively seek and want the repair and healing ourselves. It is a refreshing alternative, and a play that offers hope and love and redemption, not just drama.


The season runs until March 26 2023, with evening shows at 7.30pm and matinees at 2pm.


Meredith Hunter (Natalie) and Jarrod Buttery (Charlie)

Reviewer note: Paul is a former Independent Theatre Association president. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.


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