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A play that deals with the trauma of missing persons
Ben Pfeiffer, Caroline Lee, Brigid Callacher - Tess Noble Photography
Imagine having the worst day of your life at the happiest place on earth. This is the reality for Robyn Norman, a woman whose son David went missing on a trip to Disneyland. Decades later, she is still trying to unravel the mystery of what happened on that day, and how it shaped the man her son became.
A play that deals with the trauma of missing persons and grief, Colder traverses time and space to paint a portrait of a man who is seemingly unknowable. Told through a combination of prose and dialogue, it allows the audience to sink into a dreamy landscape where the past and present bump up against each other. We see David and Robyn's relationship as adults, strained and distant, as well as David's inability to really connect to his best friend or boyfriend. Alongside its exploration of missing persons, Colder also looks at the experience of a gay man in the queer community, and his search for connection amidst the glitter and grime of Mardi Gras. All the while, the memory of that day at Disneyland haunts those on stage – these characters seem stuck in the past, and we are unsure if they even want to move into the future.
Director Alyson Campbell and writer Lachlan Philpott have a long working relationship, and this production of Colder is a testament to that – Campbell has created the liminal, in-between place that colours so much of the text and brought it to life, aided by a subtle set, lighting and sound design. Told across two acts, at times the prose felt like a wall of dialogue that was hard to immerse yourself in, but for the most part the production kept a good pace. Performed by a strong ensemble cast, the standouts were Marissa Bennett and Caroline Lee, both portraying Robyn at different ages – performing the same character in tandem at different ages would be no easy task, but these actresses melded seamlessly into one person, a woman whose grief and vulnerability were palpable.
Charles Purcell and Caroline Lee - Teresa Noble Photography
Colder is a play that focuses on ambiguity – the way we can only partly grief some losses, when that person becomes someone different from who we thought they were, or when they disappear completely. Juxtaposing loud, raucous environments like Disneyland and Mardi Gras alongside the quiet, internal landscapes of its characters, this play offers no answers, only more questions. Brought to life by an accomplished creative team, Colder is a thought-provoking story that will leave you thinking about its characters and their world long after the theatre lights have come back up.