New play set at The Gap explores suicide, redemption

Looking north towards the high cliffs that create The Gap at Watson's Bay. Photo: Adam.J.W.C./Creative Commons 3.0.

A live reading of new play Bridging The Gap will explore themes around suicide, writes Rita Bratovich.

Sheldon is a young Jewish man who is very close to the edge in every sense of the word. He feels trapped by what seems to him an impossible circumstance; figuratively and literally caught between a rock and a swirling sea dozens of metres below. 

While he considers his future, his thoughts are interrupted by an older Aboriginal man who begins chatting with him. 

Together, they manage to cross a divide. 

“It’s a really beautiful piece,” says Tim McGarry, who is directing this brand new work by first time playwright, Brian Fine. 

Bridging The Gap will be performed as a live reading by actors Frederick Copperwaite (the older Indigenous man) and Doron Chester (Sheldon) as part of Our Second Stage, an initiative started by Moira Blumenthal Productions.

Our Second Stage encourages submissions of new works by writers or members of the Jewish community who have a story they feel should be shared; stories that speak of and to the community. 

Bridging The Gap is the second play to be produced through the initiative. (The first was Certificate of Life, by established and prolific writer, Ron Elisha.)

Fine’s play was selected because of its emotional depth and range of themes despite the relative simplicity of the plot. 

“The concept behind this story is beautiful. It’s set at The Gap at Watsons Bay. It’s about a young man who is partly grappling with his [identity] and partly grappling with his faith and what his family will think,” says McGarry. 

The other character is ostensibly juxtaposed – an older, indigenous man – but as he starts talking to Sheldon, we realise there may not be such a chasm between them. 

“It’s in the course of talking him down that we learn more about Sheldon’s story … but we also hear more about the Aboriginal man’s story,” explains McGarry, “and it’s deeply tragic in many respects – regrets that he’s had in his life – and the two of them find a simpatico, if you like. And that’s how the play kind of plays out.” 

The play is in one act, running at around 45 minutes on stage. The actors will have scripts in hand and deliver performative dialogue. There will be a very minimal set and some sound effects to provide location cues. 

McGarry doesn’t see this sort of performance as limiting at all – it’s just another way to experience theatre. 

“I love the rawness. I think the rawness is fascinating to watch. I love going to watch play readings because I find you see actors in a different light. We rarely see actors in the rehearsal room. The average audience member doesn’t know that world … and that world’s quite interesting for people who don’t know it,” he says. 

With readings, the focus is on the words and story, without the intervention or editorialising of extraneous production elements. 

Watching a reading and then later seeing a full production of the same play can be quite an interesting experience. 

“And some of these works that Moira is programming in their second stage hopefully will get another life on stage,” says McGarry.  

In the meantime, the readings are being recorded then uploaded as an audio file on the Moira Blumenthal Productions website. (You can listen to Ron Elisha’s play, Certificate of Life, now.)

There will be two live readings of the play on the same day, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. Each will be followed by a discussion involving the actors, McGarry (director) and the writer, Brian Fine. 

“Brian will talk about the idea of the story and he also will talk about a follow up story that he has been thinking about in terms of the piece he wrote,” explains McGarry. 

“People can ask questions of him, can ask questions of the actors or of ourselves who developed the work.”

Given the subject matter of the play, McGarry and Blumenthal are also considering inviting a counsellor or advisor to be part of the after-show panel. That said, McGarry assures audiences that the story is beautiful and hopeful, and he encourages people from all backgrounds to come and enjoy a new theatrical experience. 

Bridging The Gap will be performed at 3pm and 7pm, Wednesday, 14 October at the ARA Darling Quarter Theatre, Terrace 3, 1-25 Harbour St, Darling Harbour. For tickets and info, visit www.moirablumenthalproductions.com.au/bridgingthegap.

If this article raises any issues for you, please contact Lifeline on 131 114 or visit www.lifeline.org.au.

The ARA Darling Quarter Theatre, Darling Harbour. File photo.

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