|Matchstick Theatre's True West by Sam Shepard
If a sample of independent Melbourne theatre companies can be believed, True West is Sam Shepard’s most produced play. If there’s not one production every year, there’s probably two.
As the first production for the brand new company, Matchstick Theatre, it’s still a solid choice. Co-founders and actors, Michael Argus and Charlie Mycroft, play the two brothers, reunited in their mother’s house on the edge of the desert.
It’s easy to see why this play is done so often: one set, two strong central roles and a simple, gripping premise – how far will each brother go to one-up the other? And which brother can win the arguments over Old West versus New West or business versus art?
Argus takes the role of Lee, the unpredictable drifter. As the wild man, Argus comes close to overplaying the chaotic younger brother. But throughout the show, he settles into the role and he finds more nuance in the script as it goes.
The role of Austin requires more restraint and Mycroft delivers. It’s easy to let a character like Lee carry the show, but Mycroft does some really subtle character work as Austin early on – setting the stage for his fall later in the play.
Jacob Battista’s set and costume design really grounds the production; this is 1970s America, with the decor and fake grass to match. The set is naturalistic almost to a fault, but with the right moving parts so we can watch time and destruction wear away at the family home.
Director Alice Darling has a light touch; this production gives the sense she got out of the way of the text and the actors and allowed them to play.
This is a solid start for Matchstick Theatre; two strong performances of a classic text. A tried and true west.
True West is open at Metanoia Theatre until Oct 22. Book here.