Monday, 23 April 2018

Right Now by Catherine-Anne Toupin - Red Stitch

The cast of Right Now
Photo: Jodie Hutchinson
Alice and Ben are settling into their new apartment when their neighbours, the Gauches, invite themselves over to see what the couple have done with the place.

Juliet, Gilles and son Francois live directly across the hallway in an apartment that is the same, but the other way around. If Alice and Ben turn left, the Gauches must turn right.

Ben is a doctor who works long hours and Alice spends a lot of time at home, alone. And when she’s alone, she hears things. A cry in the dark that begins to haunt her even when other people are around.

Catherine-Anne Toupin’s Right Now is a domestic psychological thriller that mines its tension for dramatic and comedic affect.

When the Gauches arrive as a family, they are framed in the doorway like the perfect Gothic portrait of a haunted family. But once they cross the threshold, they are harder to pin down.

Francois enters with a wide toothy grin – both goofy and deeply unsettling. His relationship with his parents is complicated; his brother died when he was very young, and he’s uncomfortably close with Juliet and Gilles, though he’s sure he’s still not the favourite.

Gilles turns out to be an idol of Ben’s in the medical field. Juliet tells Alice she reminds her a lot of herself. The neighbours are like a fun-house mirror of Alice and Ben; a mirror on the wall of a haunted house.

Alice and Ben are still settling into their new apartment, but they are haunted by something in the past. This ideal place they have made for themselves, comfortable and perfectly appointed, will not let them forget where they have come from and the pain of their past is beginning to infect their waking lives.

The play itself is slippery; it gives you signposts but then turns them around. You may twig to what is happening to Alice early on, but then Toupin’s work twists into more complicated shapes. And the characters shift and change before our very eyes.

Katy Maudlin’s production ratchets up the tension with each glance and maniacal laugh. Daniel Nixon’s sound design gets under your skin and Richard Vabre’s lighting illuminates the characters and their shadows in uncomfortable ways.

The acting ensemble is uniformly excellent. Christina O’Neill’s Alice is opaque, but this makes her utterly compelling. What is going on inside her mind? Is what is going on inside her mind playing out in front of us?

Mark Wilson’s Francois is superb for the way he evolves throughout the play. As his character slowly encroaches on Alice’s life, he turns from comic relief into something much more disturbing and finally transforms into a much more complicated figure.

Dushan Phillips is compelling as Ben, who is pushed to extremes by his and Alice’s trauma and by the many ways he cannot say no to the far-too-friendly neighbours.

Rounding out the cast is Olga Makeeva and Joe Petruzzi as Juliet and Gilles, whose relationship at times feels like Morticia and Gomez Addams and at moments like they live in the same apartment building as Rosemary’s Baby.

Twenty-four hours after Right Now, I’m still thinking about what happened and what didn’t happen and which of those things matter the most. It’s the shadows of what’s not there that leave the deepest impression.

Tense and twisted drama that you’ll wrestle with for a long time after.

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