Theatre review: ’Til Divorce

15 April 2011

Written by: Suzannah Macbeth

’Til Divorce is the inaugural production from director Eben Rojter’s newly founded theatre company, Thorny Devil Theatre. Written by part-time playwright Tahnee Jones, it’s a behind-the-scenes look at a fast-fading marriage, and is presented as part of the 2011 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Amy (Sarah Breen) and Adam (Jacob Pruden) are the young unhappy couple in ’Til Divorce. We first meet them nine months and twelve days into their marriage — on the day when the word ‘divorce’ is raised in earnest between them. The script then takes us back at intervals to witness the disintegration of a marriage that was never very good to begin with, returning each time to the same day on which the play began.

Tragedy and comedy feature side by side, for while the topic is in itself not funny at all, light relief is provided by the ridiculousness of the couple’s arguments and by the creative scene transitions. The couple’s arguments are both awful and amusing — the prime example is a long-winded argument over who loves the other more, an argument which displays their lack of awareness for one another’s feelings and motivations.

There’s many scene changes, and the decision to capitalise on these for comedy is definitely the right one — it would be hard to have kept the transitions subtle in a venue the size of La Mama Courthouse Theatre, and the audience’s attention would surely have been lost. Director Eben Rojter takes the starring role here, occasionally acknowledging the audience or taking the mickey out of the characters, and never failing to draw laughter. At each transition, Rojter sets the scene’s temporality in a creative, quirky way, using menus, a floor mat, a newspaper and other devices to let us know where we are — ‘eight months, twenty-four days married’, ‘five months married’, and so on.

While the lead actors do a good job with the material and are superbly cast in their roles, almost every scene in the play could have benefited from more depth. Just as the conflict in each scene begins to reveal something about the characters, the lights are dimmed and the scene changes. The concept behind the play is good but the brevity of the scenes prevents it from being explored in the depth one might expect. This certainly bothered me early on in the piece.

By the end, however, I’d settled into the rhythm of short scenes interspersed with nonchalant and amusing transitions, and appreciated the pithy sense of movement that this rhythm created. While ’Til Divorce is not quite what one usually expects from a Comedy Festival event, it succeeds as a theatrical production with quirky comedic elements.

’Til Divorce is showing Wednesdays through to Sundays at La Mama Courthouse until 24 April 2011. For further information and tickets, go online to La Mama or the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Suzannah Marshall Macbeth is a Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University and a member of the upstart editorial team.