Performing their 2020 NT Literary Award-winning script The Hypotheticals, Sarah Reuben (‘The Woman’) and Jeffrey Jay Fowler (‘The Man’) positively sparkle as best friends navigating the idea of having a child together. They are hard-working young professionals – she is a Nurse, and he is a Graphic Designer. She is straight and single, and he is gay and single. They share date nights and what turn out to be hilarious power-walking exercise sessions.
The ingenious structure – an involving and illuminating series of vignettes based on various questions relating to the concept of having a child together – serves the numerous ‘what if?’ narrative arcs to perfection. We find ourselves spinning instantly, on the head of a pin, from gender preferences and baby-naming conventions to Darwinism and the minefield of faith-based and religious ideological conflict (he is an Atheist, and she comes from a large Jewish family).
When she moves to the Northern Territory to work as a nurse in a remote community while he remains in Perth dealing with a disintegrating relationship with an ‘influencer’, the nature of the ‘hypotheticals’ morphs suddenly into reality. Loneliness, distance, failure, unfulfilled potential and separation anxiety threaten to derail their friendship. But instead, we find ourselves in an exploration of the differences between relationships that are built on sexual, emotional and romantic foundations and those that are based on the foundations of purely platonic friendship. How, if, when and under what circumstances do human relationships defy convention and classification? This is rich but tricky literary, and in this case, theatrical territory, but Fowler and Reuben never do anything less than absolutely rise to the challenges they set themselves.
Jessica Devereux’s choreography brings inspired layers of gesture, dance and a refreshingly abstract physical vocabulary to the work that ensures the performance doesn’t risk becoming too static or introspective. The clever and insightful choreographic flourishes also change as the moods change, bringing additional important layers of punctuation to the ever-changing nature of the fascinating conversation. Tomm Lydiard’s excellent lighting design also dissolves, accentuates and bathes the performance in considered blends of colour, tone and mood.
But what brings this work home is the candid honesty that Fowler and Reuben bring to not only their script, but to their powerhouse performances. It might be remiss of me to say too much more about how the conversation ends, but I do believe there were tears in their eyes. I know there were in mine.
Pictured: Sarah Reuben and Jeffrey Jay Fowler in The Hypotheticals. Photographer: Charlie Bliss.