Tom Holloway's one-man show about trauma and forgiveness is making its Sydney debut
Vengeance, hatred, forgiveness. These are the three topics of the evening, delivered by veteran Tasmanian actor Robert Jarman playing three different men with a monologue apiece. An elderly crippled man gives an apologia for vengeance, explaining how it was a path to recovery for him after a life-shattering act of violence and violation. A man explains how hatred saved his humanity. And a third strives for forgiveness.
Tasmanian playwright Tom Holloway (Forget Me Not; Beyond the Neck) is adept at the monologue form – as we witnessed in Julian Meyrick’s production of the Holloway/Stephens portmanteau piece Dead Centre/Sea Wall, at the Old Fitz in October 2015. In As We Forgive, as in that previous work, you feel like you’re listening to a playwright with novels in their future. His gift for illuminating interior lives is matched by skilful deployment of dramatic gears: the audience member is drawn in, lead down a pathway, the light is switched on – revelation. It’s beautifully done, the writer seeming to anticipate your responses and incorporate them into the notation of his score.
Holloway has often compared his work to music – and studied composition at the Tasmanian Conservatorium (which is where he met Jarman, who was teaching performance studies). And so it feels intuitive and natural to have his monologues broken up by live music from a solo cellist on stage.
If it occasionally feels apparent that Meyrick’s production was made for a different theatre configuration (there are issues with visibility of the projected text, and the photographic images by Lisa Garland), then at least you know you’re really here for the performance. The text was written for Jarman, and he performs it with easy conviction and nuance.
The material is potent – and this is not ‘polite’ theatre: even if you haven’t before, you’ll certainly find yourself reassessing your thoughts and feelings about hatred and vengeance – and wondering what it would take to drive you to an extreme act, or how great your capacity for hate really might be. And how truly you’ve been able to forgive – others and yourself.