Last night my new play, The Critic, opened at Voltaire in North Melbourne. I’ve been pretty separated from this one, only checking in periodically but otherwise leaving the whole process in the hands of the cast and director. That’s kind of my favourite way to operate; there’s nothing quite like the thrill of seeing your play come to life for the first time and experiencing that without even a glimpse of the rehearsal period is the purest way to get that.
That said, my first viewing of the show was actually the final dress rehearsal a couple of days ago, which I figured was a slightly less stressful way to see the play than surrounded by an audience, and that made for a fairly relaxed opening night knowing that the show was, in my opinion, pretty damn good.
My biggest fear with The Critic was that it would feel repetitive; after all, in my head it rounds out a thematic trilogy with We Can Work It Out and The Lucas Conundrum as three dialogue driven hour long plays featuring a cast of four dealing with themes related to art. Aside from the different dynamic that an all-female cast would bring, I did have to wonder if people who had seen the other two plays would just roll their eyes at yet another Bergmoser script predominantly featuring people swearing at each other and discussing the meaning of art.
But the biggest surprise for me was how different this play feels. Aside from the obvious, it doesn’t have all that much in common with either Lucas Conundrum or We Can Work It Out; The Critic is faster paced than either of them, a little meta and self-aware, less funny but surprisingly more emotional and makes its point with strength and clarity. Obviously this is coming from the person who wrote it, so take all that with a pinch of salt, but I tend to be critical of my own work and I was honestly surprised by how little I found to take issue with in The Critic.
So much of that is down to the execution. The cast is probably the strongest I’ve ever seen do one of my plays; there isn’t a single weak link (and thank god because in a small cast those are very obvious) and despite having done my usual thing of not really trying to make anyone especially likeable, I found myself actually liking all of the characters on stage in a way I didn’t on the page. There’s a good chance that The Critic might feature the first legitimately likeable Gabriel Bergmoser protagonist, although I feel like the credit for that has to go to Louise Cox who plays Jamie with a perfectly judged mix of vulnerability, manic energy, and steely resolve. It’s a colourful, dynamic performance where she never does the same thing twice. And while the rest of the cast are all equally brilliant in their roles, it’s Louise’s show, as it rightly should be.
At the time of writing I’m yet to read any reviews of The Critic, but I’m extremely curious to see how they turn out considering this is a case of critics responding to a play specifically about them. For the first time I’m actually more curious than nervous to see how they feel about it. But I’m at peace with the idea that they might not like it because, in a very rare case, I’m totally satisfied with how the show turned out and can take comfort in the fact that it is exactly the play I wanted it to be when I wrote it. So if the response down the line turns out to be negative and I try to blame the cast or director, consider this me going on the record and stating that any issues you have with the play are totally on me. The creative team brought the script to life perfectly.
So yeah, go see it. I’m pretty proud of this one.
Writing words about writing words.