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Gail and her early morning group set up for their AA meeting the same way each day, putting the coffee on, arranging the chairs, and working together towards sobriety – until Gail’s estranged granddaughter forces her to confront the elements of her past she’s avoided for decades.
Before the Meeting shows us why, truly, to live our lives one day at a time. Written by Adam Bock and directed by Kim Hardwick, it paints a compelling picture of recovery from addiction without glossing over the complexities that lie on the journey towards healing. The characters’ interactions jump seamlessly between frivolous spats about the arrangement of the chairs and the right way to make coffee, and their struggles with relationship breakdowns, abuse, career loss and health problems that Gail, Nicole, Tim and Ron battle respectively in their hours outside AA.
The ensemble’s easy chemistry is really enjoyable to watch; the majority of the play is recurring scenes of the cast setting up for their meeting and every time is distinguished by the cast adding a new, valuable layer to the story.
Our protagonist Gail (Jane Phegan) is the seasoned leader of the AA coffee committee, well recovered from her addiction but still experiencing the consequences of her past. She’s a frustrating character, never quite honest with herself about how her past actions have affected those she loves; Phegan delivers a nuanced performance both as part of the ensemble, and in an extended monologue no one could look away from. Her friend Nicole (Alex Malone) is young and too used to poor treatment, always cracking dad jokes to lighten the mood when things get too serious, while Ron (Tim McGarry) always has an opinion on the chairs and coffee, but never hesitates to extend a helping hand in a difficult moment. Tim (Tim Walker) is new to his AA journey, still stinging from the rock bottom he hit to end up there but on the right path.
The set is a classic church basement or rec centre with cream walls, worn, off-white furnishings, random chairs, trestle tables, and shelving on the green lino floor. Subtle costume changes work with the pace of the performance, giving us hints as to the upcoming scene or simply marking the passing of time by adding a scarf or a jacket or changing to a suit.
Before the Meeting is incredibly generous to its characters, cast and audience in its honest and emotional portrayal of addiction recovery, and is well worth a trip to the Seymour Centre this month.
|Aussie Season||19 May to 11 June, White Box Theatre, Seymour Centre, Sydney, NSW|
|Theatre Type & Genre||Play|
|See it if you like||Naturalism, drama, sarcastic humour|
|Other Info||Awarded an Edgerton Foundation new play prize in 2019|
|Wine Pairing||Due to the topics covered in this show, I have opted to omit a wine pairing|
|Criteria for Wine Pairing||–|