BY BREEANA HUMPHREYS
When a friend asked me to accompany her to a play at Curtin University a couple of weeks ago, I was keen to see the standard of the university drama students and production. After watching “The Flu Season”, I can confidently say that the standard for both is very high.
About the play
“The Flu Season” was written by American playwright Will Eno and debuted in 2004 to widespread critical acclaim. He is also known for his one-man play, “Thom Pain (based on nothing)”, that earned him a spot as a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
Set in a psychiatric retreat centre, “The Flu Season” is an epic-style play about love and life. We are introduced to the characters and main storyline through the Prologue (Sophie Kesteven) and Epilogue (Taylor Russert).
These symbolic characters contrast nicely, bringing two perspectives to the story and creating a storyline of their own. The audience can relate to them and attain clarity of the, at times, confusing situations in the play through their observations.
The two main characters, known as man (Jordan Nix) and woman (Elizabeth Frodsham), began as mere strangers, both staying as patients in the retreat. However, it was not long before their chemistry pulled them together.
They both suffer from mental illness, but the dysfunctional relationship they had is relatable to even the most rational of us. Doubt, insecurities and panic began to shadow their love.
Jordan Nix was excellent as the darkly comic and at times laugh-out-loud man; and though the character is often frustrating, he remained naive enough to keep the audience’s empathy in even the most testing of scenes.
Elizabeth Frodsham was equally as good as the woman. The character was multi-layered and with each furthering scene, the audience obtained a glimpse of her inner feelings, psychotic and not.
The minimalist set and modest production deliberately highlighted the characters and their journey. Lighting, set, music and costumes were simple and allowed the dialogue and actions to take centre stage.
This, along with the epilogue breaking the fourth wall in the first scene, ensured the audience focus was drawn to the characters. It further ensured that the audience was able to feel a part of the characters’ journey and the play.
After a visit backstage with the cast and crew, it became clear to me just how much work goes on behind the scenes for this play to run smoothly. Each of the production components is diligently worked on in order to ensure a smooth-running play.
As the play went on, it became clear to me that this was very much a comment on life. It points out that life is an uncertain rollercoaster; a high will always be followed by a low and we ourselves can often never predict when.
Staying true to enacting the idiosyncrasies of life, “The Flu Season” tells of how love will always be found in the most unexpected ways. To counter the dying relationship between the man and woman, there is the burgeoning relationship between the doctor and nurse.
Played by David Cronin and Rebecca Miller, the older characters can merely watch as the man and woman fall in and then out of love.
As the young couple’s situation became more and more dire, the doctor and nurse brought a humorous note to the play through their individual mannerisms and inept communication with each other.
By the end of the play, I felt just as invested in the doctor and nurse’s relationship as the man and woman’s.
Final thoughts …
The tragedy in “The Flu Season” is understated and somewhat every day. In the end, the women died but life continued for everyone else.
I liked this most of all: the realism that their love was not undying and that the male lived on. It was definitely no Romeo and Juliet love story. It was real, relatable.
When we walked out of the theatre, both my friend and I expressed delight at the play and how enjoyable it was to watch. However, she did point out that at times it was a little bit hard to follow. Whether this was due to the script or even the minimalist set, it is difficult to tell.
Overall “The Flu Season” was a well-acted and well-directed play.