Two women have written a play. It’s about two women writing a play. Which is about two women… You get the idea. The women in question are Evangeline Duncan and Olivia Baker, who play friends Elise and Sirenna as they prepare to bring their “playception” to a paying audience for the first time. Assuming they can figure out a marketing strategy, that is, and get the theatre technician, Gup – a Generally Unhelpful Person (Josh Redding) – to cooperate. Oh, and hopefully sell some tickets to people who aren’t their friends and family.
Long story short: they have no idea what they’re doing, and they’re about to learn that putting on a play is far from easy, even if you do have a great idea, boundless enthusiasm and a generous godfather who’s willing to foot the bill. But at least they have each other… right?
As an audience member, and especially as a reviewer, it can sometimes be easy to forget that every piece of theatre – no matter how big or small in scale – is the product of blood, sweat, tears, and almost certainly copious amounts of coffee. It’s a Playception offers us an insight into just how soul-destroying the process of getting an idea from page to stage can be, but more importantly, it also documents the satisfaction that comes from battling through and actually making it, however clumsily, to opening night.
The hour-long show is performed with heart and humour by two women who aren’t afraid to laugh either at themselves specifically or the theatre industry in general. Elise and Sirenna are naïve, immature and easily distracted by everything from cute dungarees to cute technicians. They’re also very different people, with pretty much only their daily coffee choices in common, but somehow that’s enough to ensure their partnership – both on stage and off – succeeds.
As the different levels of fiction begin to blur, it becomes harder to separate the actors from their characters, or their characters’ characters, particularly since all the action takes place in the small theatre where they’ll rehearse and perform their play. More than once a scene we thought was happening in “real life” stops abruptly and gets rewritten on the spot, while other moments of high drama just keep going, even when things get awkward. When Elise and Sirenna start getting confused about how much of what’s going on is actually true, we know the audience doesn’t stand a chance.
So, are we watching a rehearsal, the play itself or the run-up to the play? I honestly have no idea, but it doesn’t really matter because the heart of every version is the same: two friends who believe in themselves, and each other, enough to throw themselves in the deep end and take a chance. And if that doesn’t sum up the spirit of theatre, then I don’t know what does.