Fleeing flesh-eating fog and a fire-breathing Komodo dragon, two exes have the great misfortune of being stuck in the same coffee house at the End of Days. Stained and steeped in blood, Peter (Nick MacLaine) and Rachel (Arielle Gray) determine to use what time remains to them to get some closure. Reflecting upon snippets of their time together that they miss or regret, the audience gets a sped-up insight into the couple’s history. Though they face the end hand in hand, Rachel does not reciprocate Peter’s final declaration of love and they do not resolve their differences.
Written and directed by Scott McArdle of Second Chance Theatre, Coincidences was first performed in 2013. The play has had a number of lives since then and was remounted here for the Subiaco Theatre Festival. MacLaine and Gray step into the roles to replace Aaron Vanderkley and Emily David, and the script is made all the better for the calibre of actors guiding the ship. Gray is fierce and defiant, and MacLaine highly expressive, though he seems better suited to comedy than a drama.
With chairs and low-hanging lights dangling from the ceiling, the considered set is one of curated chaos. Loaded with props, the unseen, external nightmare is reflected in the interior design. Partnered with the excellent musical score, the work is uplifted.
Coincidence at the End of Time is a sweet, digestible, inconsequential production, and is a textbook example of The Australian Bad Play. The two voices confronting one another on stage do not develop or change, and the story meanders without it being clear what is at the heart of this drama. In chopping from one short scene to the next, the writing lacks coherence and does not allow enough time for the relationship to grow onstage (instead referencing off-stage development).
Nowhere near as dark as you might expect, the apocalypse scenario in the background is a superficial gimmick. An abstract noise (literally embodied by the cries of fear and death occasionally coming through the café wireless), it does not engage the narrative or interpersonal relationship in the foreground beyond being the reason the estranged lovers are forced together.
If a play is going to live, die, and live again, it needs to be remounted for the right reasons.
Words by Samuel J. Cox
Coincidence at the End of Time ran until Saturday 3 July at the Subiaco Arts Centre as part of the Subiaco Theatre Festival.