Love breaks anything is its catchcry. Ain’t that the truth? Orange Flower Water deals strictly and single-mindedly with that sticky, fragrant commodity, so revered and reviled. Both, rightly so. Craig Wright has written a very good play, with at least one foot firmly planted in confronting realities. But what starts out and continues apace as jaw-breaking hard toffee turns out to be a bit of a 30-something peppermint cream by journey’s end.

Byron Kaye directs Megan Alston, Joseph Del Re, Sebastian Goldspink and Amy Mathews. Performances are undeniably strong, but a little too mannered at times. Alston is supermum Cathy, about to head off on an excursion (she’s a teacher). While the teacher’s away, the pharmacist (in David, her husband) will play, with timid soccer mum, Beth, who’s married to self-confessed prick, Brad (well, with a name like that). We see parts of ourselves, large and small.

Beth’s control-freakish mastery of all aspects of her life transpires to be an anxiety-driven, tenuous grip on any aspect of her life. Beth is at constant internal war with her temptation to succumb to the distressed damsel in her, a not unattractive side of her otherwise strident, effective, admirably strong character.

David is Mr Shallow dressed-up as Mr Earnest Dreamchaser, seeing someone in the mirror rather nobler than his Peter Pandemic, youth-worshipping self. He exploits the home-and-hearth-starved Cathy, who falls easily, hard and heavily for his charming fairytale-telling of their possible future. Despite this, they manage to forge a necessary bond of convenience that sees them through the flesh-tearing rigours of transition from first-to-second marriage.

Meanwhile, Brad is the archetypally angry man left behind, his barbecued, beer-sodden outer shell peeling away, like that from a cancer-ridden turtle. Exposed is his soft underbelly: the fear that inflames every angry man, young or old, that ever was, is, or will be.

There’s much to chew on, and over, here, and some scenes are almost breathtaking in their violent realism, while others are affecting for a variety of reasons both personal and universal.

You won’t just see this play. You’ll feel it, deep in the pit of your stomach. If you don’t, or can’t, relate, you haven’t lived. Or lived through certain relational tumults. Lucky you.

The details: Orange Flower Water plays the Darlinghurst Theatre until April 17. Tickets on the venue website.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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