Adelaide Fringe: The New Abnormal

Walking in to see The New Abnormal, or any show, at the Goodwood Theatre and Studios is always a delight; the beautiful laneway leading to the magnificent theatre is a breath of fresh air in a Fringe of office buildings and hot tents.

It’s absolutely fantastic to sit in a large, air-conditioned theatre with elegant lighting and a generous stage to watch a piece of excellent naturalistic performance. Kudos to Simmy and Chris for their wonderful venue, and a little nudge to the Adelaide City Council to stop destroying
theatres to make car parks.

“The New Abnormal”, written by Jeff Stolzer, starring Orion Powell and Rachel Williams, and directed by Holly Howard and Tim Marriot, is, on the surface, a simple two-hander with excellent performances. However, as the play unfolds, the themes deepen, and this intimate portrayal of a couple faced with crisis is enjoyable and touching.

The premise is familiar to all of us; a couple is stuck in lockdown in New York, dealing with (presumably) the COVID-19 epidemic as it happens. Stuck with only each other’s company, the couple discuss the frightening situation outside, bicker, reveal long-held secrets, fight, make love, and generally be humans. It’s a very recognisable and sympathetic situation; fortunately, a small audience was with the characters every step of the way.

The New Abnormal

For me, the absolute stand-out of the production is the excellent performances of Powell and Williams. They’re entirely believable and rarely falter with Stolzer’s constant, quick, Mamet-esque dialogue and presence utterly convincing people. It’s effortless to fall into this world with them because of the quality of their acting. The skill in performance alone is worth the price of admittance.

The play itself is very well written, with snappy, crackling dialogue. At times, perhaps because of the premise, it does become a bit repetitive, and maybe we feel, as the audience, that we are also in lockdown with these characters, repeating the same day over and over.

I would have liked a bit more of a rise through the show and a clearer climax, but overall, it’s well-considered with high production values. The sound and lighting design complements the show well, and the subtle direction serves the apparently effortless performances. It’s also fantastic to see love, intimacy and romance on stage – things that are rarely performed nowadays and were executed with aplomb.

With the glut of comedy, circus and other work in The Garden and Gluttony, I always love to seek out the smaller, less represented shows, and this is a great example of well-produced, funny and engaging new theatre. The season only has three shows left, and I encourage you to

PS to some of the audience – perhaps you shouldn’t eat chips in the front row of a very intimate production.

The New Abnormal has three more performances at Goodwood Theatre and Studios on Feb 26th at 1pm and 6:30pm and Feb 27th at 6:30pm.

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre to see what else is on in your town.

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