'Here Lies Henry', directed by Jason Langley, is a play like no other I've ever seen. It pushes the boundaries of the theatre world and, by breaking through the facade of theatre, reminds us of the facades we build around ourselves in our own lives.
The sole character, Henry, directly addresses the audience: he is here to tell us something we "don't already know". At first he is not sure what to say, but by the end of his monologue he has stumbled upon his own life story and, most importantly, enlivened the audience.
He is a likeable character, with obvious flaws and a good sense of humour, although I didn't find the play nearly as funny as many other members of the audience. He seemed quite fixated on jokes about vegetarians and falafels.
Henry's main preoccupation is truth. And lying. According to Henry, there are 8 types of lies, including the 'just kidding' lie, which my fellow theatregoer later pointed out I was using.
He talks us through his ideas and experiences in a roundabout fashion, stopping, starting, rehashing and revisiting, until his story lies bare before us. After all, as Henry says himself, when making reference to the Garden of Eden, the truth is being naked.
The play draws attention to the ways theatrical devices, such as lighting and sound, are used to enhance, or perhaps manipulate, our viewing experience. At times, Henry calls upon these aids, for example bright lights, but it is when he is standing merely in a spotlight that he shares with us his most meaningful experiences.
Actor Matthew Hyde sustains the performance wonderfully for the 70 minutes, through his rambling, overflowing speeches and his brief silences. He plays with the audience, tricking us, teasing us and inviting us to sympathise with him. Hyde's energy spills from him; he is on the ball every moment, which is impressive given that he is delivering a monologue for over an hour.
The play, written by Daniel MacIvor, is the sort from which we all make our own interpretations and draw our own conclusions and, for me, this was a guy who was trapped in his own purgatory.
When we returned to the theatre foyer after the play, we were greeted by bowls of falafels, dip and bread. I have a feeling that this was an 'Opening Night' celebration, and so is not to be expected every night, however, I think it is worth mentioning in order to illustrate the welcoming attitude of the production team and the Sydney Fringe Festival.