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Theatre review: That Was Friday

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It’s always exciting to take a trip to Belco Arts. The near-new facility on the water’s edge at Belconnen has thrown up a consistent program of queer-friendly shows lately and the House of Sand’s That Was Friday was no exception. 

A full theatre watched the show unfold informally with dancers warming up on the stage and transforming into a Berlin club scene, where our main character Jack (played by Lachlan Martin) is trying to find the part of his life that was missing in Australia (we later find out that it was ‘bravery’ he was after). 

The dancers, Ryan Douglas Stone, Billy Keohavong, Jareen Wee and Ella Williams, punctuate the story, which is actually stories; as we cross from the one about Jack, his sister Eliza (played by Enya Daly), who is also abroad, and their mother (played by Sara Zwangobani), in a series of video link ups; to the real-life story of Armenian refugee Amrit Tohari Agamemnoian (real name), whose appearance in the theatre is completely by video.

The audience quickly falls into a state of loving compassion for Amrit, whose life experiences are much too harsh for us to accept for such an articulate creature. A video of him shuffling on the spot – presumably in a refugee camp or hotel – is replicated lovingly throughout the show by the dancers. It’s clear that the entire cast has a huge affection for Amrit, whose experience is at the very heart of the show.

Things are not quite so clear between Jack, Eliza, and their mum, and it’s not apparent how their story relates to Amrit’s.

The whole charade comes unstuck before the intermission, when the actors (and dancers) appear to start speaking as themselves, about the ironies of the casting and the storyline. It’s a masterful deconstruction that sets expectations high for the second half.

We return with a few opening night wines in our bellies – and a sense that real theatre (with real crowds!) is back! Yay!

Unfortunately, it’s a high bar that’s not quite met as the play/dance – although clever, frequently brilliant and technologically titillating – never quite ties together in simple terms. For my little theatre posse, none of us were quite sure what had just happened when we meet afterward; although we all enjoyed it nonetheless.

On reflection, it’s a story about home and that ultimately, home is within ourselves. I’d probably have to see That Was Friday a second time to fully understand it – but that would be a pleasure to do so.  

– Danny Corvini