Adelaide Fringe Festival Review: The Last Time I Saw Richard – The Bakehouse Theatre (16.02.16)

The Last Time I Saw Richard sees two people navigate the complexities and ideas surrounding the idea of a ‘non-relationship’ in a series of hotel rooms over an extended period of time. Will this chemistry April and Richard share extend outside the confines of the temporary accommodation they keep finding themselves in? Are the insecurities and sarcastic walls both characters exhibit enough to keep them both enticed, or is this simply fated to be just sex? It’s this exploration of fidelity, the definitions of love and sex that Cat Commander weaves through a clever and well-presented script that is delivered evocatively by five.point.one.

Under Craig Behenna‘s direction, Elizabeth Hay and Charles Mayer, as April and Richard respectively, quickly establish an intimate environment that makes us feel like we truly are flies on a wall, taking a glimpse into the private encounters of two people trying to figure their dynamic out.

The set design was minimal but effective, with designers Matt Crook, Brad Williams and Behenna utilising screens and visual effects well in defining each hotel room and atmosphere April and Richard find themselves in.

When we’re first introduced to the couple, they’re in the early days: a casual hook up and its direct aftermath has these two playfully bantering off each other and clearly establishing a funny and entertaining ‘will they, won’t they?’ vibe. As the production continues, we find out more about how both April and Richard have wound up where they are.

Richard is a 40-something actor still chasing that big break in the waning light of past success, but has become jaded and leans on a cocky sense of humour and lofty self-confidence when he’s with April that can cut from cheeky to obnoxious quickly. April, by contrast, is in her 20’s when we first meet her – she’s bright and self-assured on the surface, but has been heartbroken enough times to leave her insecure and instead drifting from occupation to occupation and, as we see, lover to past lover.

Both Hay and Mayer perform with a natural ease that makes both characters endearing and easy to relate to. They both have great chemistry together that continues to develop throughout the production; there are moments of sexual tension, moments of almost jarring tenderness and moments of grounding realness, where the bubble of fun and casual sex is burst by the intrusion of a past lover, a pregnancy scare or the longevity of an already uncertain career. Some scene transitions could have flowed better, they were the only moments where you got pulled out of their world and you remembered you were watching a play unfold. Overall though, Behenna’s direction had these two leads play energetically and cleverly off each other, making them great to watch.

When they’re together, April and Richard escape whatever realities their outside (real) lives, pose, yet there doesn’t seem to be any endgame or directly presented future for these two. There are hints of what could be; they could ditch their Melbourne lives and head for the lights of New York or LA. They could even just hang out more together in their own city and date like any normal couple. Or maybe, they’ll just continue meeting up sporadically every few years for another ‘this is the last time’ hook up. The state of their relationship is up in the air even as the lights dim on the set for the final time, leaving us wondering ‘should they, shouldn’t they?’ more than our original, ‘will they, won’t they?’.

The Last Time I Saw Richard is a sharp offering from the award-winning five.point.one company that leaves enough questions lingering without leaving you wanting or feeling ripped off. The script is smart and almost unsettlingly familiar in places and for that, Cat Commander must be praised. Overall, a solid inclusion in this year’s Adelaide Fringe Festival program.

The Last Time I Saw Richard runs at The Bakehouse Theatre until February 27th. For more information about showing times and tickets, head HERE. To stay up to date on everything five.point.one, head HERE.