One of the joys of theatre is the medium. Theatre allows unique forms of narrative, unavailable in cinema or literature. My favourite plays are the ones that make the most of this, providing an experience that you can’t see working outside a stage. Tom Holloway’s ‘Sunshine‘ at Red Stitch Theatre succeeds remarkably that way (and in quite a few other ways).
Know that feeling of unconsciously catching a song, and being transported to a place of feeling and emotion before you even realise what the tune is? And that memory might shift your emotions, positive or not, so that it impacts you mood for the day, or the next decisions you make? The song ‘You Are My Sunshine’ that gives name to the play does that exactly for me – it is the first (and only) song I learnt on the ukulele on a romantic trip to Hawaii for a significant birthday.
This theme is one that launches the four characters into four interwoven monologues, each one recounting the events of one trying evening in Melbourne. The two men and two women, seemingly unrelated, are swept up in a musical reverie that fuels emotions, propelling them towards events that will change their lives.
This is ‘choral style’ theatre, meaning that the narrative threads, mimicking a polyphonic fugue, are told simultaneously, jumping from actor to actor, and interweaving in connected ways that would fail if not put together by a master of the craft as is this playwright. In his hands, the effect is surprising and spellbinding.
Underneath the narrative, there is a second layer of thematic symbolism that extrapolate from the dramatic, if mundane, events that are told. Themes arise, such as the nature of consciousness, why we act the way we do, irrational desires usurping logical behavior, and a lot more I am still processing.
‘Sunshine’ made for a challenging viewing, in the sense that it required constant focus on the story (the play runs for around 100 minutes with no interval or pause to the monologues). I would frequently pause my attention on the performance to reflect on the wealth of ideas alluded to, juggling attention between the two. But I can confidently recommend the experience. On balance, the effort is absolutely rewarding.
Christian G. is an international man of mystery, lover of books, cats and the performing arts; moonlighting as a finance professional by day.