Reviewed by: Jonathon Davidson
Image credit: Keiran Peek
It’s the apocalypse. Rachel has watched a giant Komodo dragon drag a family into the sewer, been shot at by the military and survived just long enough to sort out one very messy history between herself and Peter – ex lovers – whom both find themselves taking refuge in the same abandoned cafe during the end of the world. And these aren’t even the strangest things to happen.
It is inside the walls of this cafe that the performance dominantly resides, however multiple flashbacks take the characters outside of its walls at multiple points throughout the performance. Flashbacks, and even flashforwards, are a consistently used device throughout Coincidences, which are signified by a wide use of varying lighting cues. In my interview with Scott Mcardle close to a fortnight ago, he mentioned that he has a working knowledge of lighting design and incorporates this talent into all of his personal productions. This definitely shows, as lighting is one the most notable aspects to the performance – where some performances rely on rare and subtle changes in lighting to accentuate impact, Coincidences is proof of McArdle’s complete embrace of lighting, using it and changing it to his advantage with every scene change.
To separate between the present and the past (or alternate timelines), scenes are cut with a short fade out to black through which one solitary old school lamp burns bright, the bright, snaking orange coil the only definable thing to the viewer’s eye in the darkness of the Blue Room Theatre’s studio space.
The set of Coincidences makes fair use of the intimate venue – along the back walls that become the cafe (referred to as Citizens of Tokyo) cardboard boxes are lined up in a row, scrawled with permanent markers labeling “sweaters, videos…” and so forth. This literal representation of baggage comes to parallel characters Peter and Rachel’s emotional baggage as the play moves forward.
While Coincidences is full of references to sci-fi and moments of self-aware humour, it is at its core a love story between a presumably young couple and the eventual demise of their relationship where neither were able to ascertain closure. McArdle stated in his interview that the relationship between the characters in the performance is based on one of his own, as is the experience of two ex lovers coming together in the same cafe at the last possible minute – extrapolated to the height of dramatic ends.
As for the apocalypse, throwaway lines referencing over population, man-made downfall and alien codes giving sentience to the internet bring Coincidences into the sci-fi genre and allow for a few quality moments of humour – arguments over whether or not a giant komodo dragon that breathes fire qualifies as Godzilla is one example. Fortunately, humour is not affixed to these moments alone – amusing discussions on the true nature of Biscotti pave the way for the use of “Shitscotti” as a noun, and another scene delivers an excellent adaption of roses are red, violets are blue… that needs to be heard and not read for full impact.
The actual singular event which ends the universe makes good use of soundscape, something else present throughout the entirety of Coincidences – soundbites familiarise themselves with the audience to signify transitions in and out of flashbacks along with lighting to create an easy to follow plot, for the most part – if one were to pay too much attention to the set for a moment too long you could find yourself confused to see Peter or Rachel now playing a different character – if this sounds like an oddly specific example it’s because it is, but the performance is not so complex that you entirely lose footing.
If I had to give any criticism I would say that the use of flashbacks may become jarring towards the conclusion, and a cynic might argue that they are over-relied upon. However, theatre presents the challenge to manipulate time and space for all stories to one point on stage, and in doing this with the use of dynamic lighting and sound, Coincidences succeeds.