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Bodies Unfinished

Lewis Hetherington
Grey Swan
Jack Studio Theatre
(2011)

Bodies Unfinished publicity image

Sometimes, good people do bad things. People make mistakes, get lost and need time to find out where they want to go next.

Bodies Unfinished is about one of those times, when Alan has a mid-life crisis. His mother won't talk and is in a retirement home, his wife has left him taking his only son, and he might be falling in love with a woman he has to pay to be with.

So far, so standard, but what sets Bodies Unfinished stand out are some well conceived set pieces with a flair for imagery and tone. Unfortunately, such moments are too far too few to really lift this production beyond the ordinary, with its most striking aspect the characters' casual and unacknowledged cruelty.

Set on a white tiled space with minimal props, we come to learn about Alan, and how he's trying to piece his life together through his interactions with his mother, his lover and his (ex-ish) wife.

Alan remains engaging and mostly sympathetic, though the three women prove to be more interesting and more colourful.

The scenes with Alan's mother are particularly good, filled with evocative language and Jean App's delicate but meaty acting. And Katerina Stearman, the sex worker, has a powerful scene talking about her relationship with her body and her work.

So the set-up, while fairly bland, is well-executed with lively writing and good pacing.

Where things become more difficult is that most of the play's characters do very ugly things, seemingly without either the direction or the characters being aware of it.

Alan's son, Toby, becomes part of a cynical and selfish game between the two parents with both trying to flog him off and this is never dealt with sensitively or even openly. At best, this is meant to be challenging, a critique of the sense of self-entitlement that comes with a midlife crisis. But it felt more like the production itself wasn't aware that this was problematic.

And it's hard to remain sympathetic towards a character that refuses to take care of his son and then feels entitled to play the father, particularly when this failure is not handled by the production.

Bodies Unfinished is generally well-executed play that is undermined by not fully realising the implication of what is happening on stage. A play that should be engaging ends feeling cruel, with a main character that's hard to forgive.

"Bodies Unfinished" is playing at the Jack Studio Theatre until the 30th July.

Reviewer: Tobias Chapple