Clyde’s, Ensemble Theatre | Review

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Clyde’s combines humour, heart and a good pinch of salt in this feel-good recipe for the stage.

The struggles of formerly incarcerated people to rebuild their lives after gaol are well-documented, with core needs like housing and employment difficult to acquire with a criminal record. Enter playwright Lynn Nottage’s Clyde’s, a truck stop diner that employs formerly incarcerated people exclusively, due to the eponymous owner’s (Nancy Denis) own experiences inside. Truckers know it for its excellent cheese and tuna melts, but the eclectic bunch of misfits who run the kitchen see Clyde’s as their second chance – if Clyde will allow them to take it. Amid constant haranguing by their demanding boss and the gentle guidance and support of kitchen head Montrellous (Charles Allen), Letitia (Ebony Vagulans), Rafael (Gabriel Alvarado) and Jason (Aaron Tsindos) strive to reconstruct their lives and create the perfect sandwich along the way.

Clyde is a caricature of the most horrible boss you can imagine, fuelled by Denis’ hilariously chaotic combination of exaggerated facial expressions, overt aggression and gaudy wardrobe. Direction by Darren Yap ensures that among the cast she feels larger than life, capturing the deafening roar of judgement that plagues formerly incarcerated people even after serving their time. Yap then curates Allen’s performance as Montrellous to be Clyde’s polar opposite, representing the power of even a single kind voice to drown out the hate. His Deepak Chopra-like energy and long-winded allegories bring a sense of calm and hope to the stage.

In between the two lie Leticia, Rafael and Jason, regular people just trying to figure out their next steps in life and linked by the belief that their criminal record will keep them in a kind of prison forever. This belief influences their behaviour; seasoned sandwich makers Letitia and Rafael are hostile to newcomer Jason, Vagulans and Alvarado’s on-stage chemistry convincing in their united front against the world. Jason keeps his guard up until he knows where he stands, Tsindos capturing Jason’s persona of the tough guy exterior with a gooey centre. Letitia, Rafael and Jason must learn from Montrellous to free themselves from their pasts and allow themselves to be vulnerable again.

In the shady deals Clyde makes to fund opening the truck stop she imprisons herself for good, and is so caught up in being ‘better’ than her employees that she can’t enjoy the very sandwiches she’s known for. Don’t be like Clyde – focus on your own happiness, rather than others’ misery.

Purchase your ticket to Clyde’s here.

Verdelho | Wine Pairing

Verdelhos have lovely fresh flavours that pair nicely with with cheese toasties and tuna melts alike. It’s also a varietal with some sweetness, which all of these characters are well overdue for.

My Pick: Audrey Wilkinson 2022 Verdelho, Hunter Valley, NSW

This drop has all the melon and tropical flavours you want in a Verdelho, with a spicy little zing added in for good measure. Enjoy freely, and with abandon!

Purchase a bottle for $23 here.

Clyde’s, Ensemble Theatre | Tasting Notes

Aussie Season5 May to 10 June 2023, Ensemble Theatre, Sydney
Ticket $$43-80
WriterLynn Nottage
DirectorDarren Yap
Theatre Type & GenrePlay, Dramedy
See it if you likestories of redemption, rough-around-the-edges characters with hearts of gold
Wine PairingVerdelho
Criteria for Wine Pairingpairs with sandwiches, cheese and seafood, off-dry flavour notes