Review: The Credeaux Canvas

Theatre, Drama
The Credeaux Canvas at the El Rocco room
Photograph: Supplied Samson Alston and Rachel Marley in The Credeaux Canvas at the El Rocco room

Time Out says

The off-Broadway hit returns to Sydney in slightly different circumstances

Sydney’s first “post-lockdown” theatre show is an intimate affair featuring betrayal, a love triangle, an art hoax, queer undertones, and full-frontal nudity. 

We’ve become accustomed to seeing new theatre online and re-embracing cabaret with dinner and a show, but now up to 24 Sydneysiders can sit down (appropriately spaced, of course) to take in a full-length play in-person. 

Set in the early noughties, The Credeaux Canvas depicts three twenty-something New Yorkers desperate for a lucky break who resort to fooling a wealthy art connoisseur with a forgery. It's presented at the jazzy El Rocco Café and Theatre in Kings Cross by Lambert House Enterprises, the first company to bring the hit play to Sydney’s Stables Theatre in 2002, after its off-Broadway debut the year before.

A face mask is a must for all audience members at this production (although you are permitted to slip it under your chin to take a sip of your drink from the bar). Sitting in the small yet physically-distanced downstairs theatre, with only metres separating actors from the audience, having your face half-hidden actually provides some comfort as you adjust to being in the room after months of isolated binge-watching. As the action unfolds, you might have to remind yourself that you can’t vocally exclaim at the stage in the same way you’d yell at your TV.

The performances from the main trio of young actors are convincing, and the connection between introverted artist Winston (Samson Alston) and Amelia (Rachel Marley), the nightclub-singing girlfriend of his lovesick roommate Jamie (Jasper Bruce), is palpable. The character’s frustrations are understandable. Anyone who can relate to the plight of a determined young person moving to an exciting yet expensive and competitive big city to pursue their dreams would understand the temptation of getting ahead by duping a wealthy middle-aged person with enough money to burn on a high-brow art collection.

Beth Daly makes an engaging entrance in the second half as Tess, the aforementioned wealthy art collector. With her strong stage presence and convincing, empathetic portrayal in her short time on stage, I’d even go so far as to call her the Meryl Streep of this production. 

The staging is simple, with a bathtub and an easel framing the space, emphasising the pressed-in feel of a small walk-up apartment. The lighting design by Larry Kelly makes good use of a difficult footprint. During the all-important nude scene, a beam of light perfectly mimicking moonlight illuminates the initially-reluctant life model. 

Directed by Les Solomon, who first brought The Credeaux Canvas to Sydney, and co-directed by Issac Broadbent, the play is presented in rather different circumstances. Many of the rehearsals were held on Zoom, with a flyer distributed across the audience’s seats assuring us that all company members have been taking safety measures and keeping social interactions outside of the company to a minimum – which is good knowledge to have in your back pocket when certain cast members start getting physically intimate. 

At a lengthy two hours, the show does well to keep you entertained. While the epilogue may leave you with more questions than answers (Who was really in love with who? Who was manipulating who?) the delight in having a play to argue over again was more than enough to outweigh my rage at how both male characters used the female lead as a pawn to escape their own depressing realities. 

The Credeaux Canvas has been extended until September 27, show days and times vary. Adult tickets are $35 and concessions are $25. Make a booking here.

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