Gaslight Theatre, Cambridge

28/06/2017 - 30/06/2017

Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton

19/07/2017 - 22/07/2017

Production Details

A brilliant surgeon can no longer bear to touch the living. Two voices connect fleetingly over the phone. A desperate mother begs to embrace her son one last time. A young woman seeks atonement. Disparate lives interweave, intersect, collide and connect in the most unexpected of ways.

This is our world – where some long for the electrical charge of human contact, others flee it, and lives turn on the smallest moments of intimacy. Suzie Miller’s play reveals humanity in all its messy complexity.

“Touch my skin, go on, feel it, feel the heat of me. Hit me, scratch me, feel the pulse of me.”

Note : mature content and explicit sexual language

Gaslight Theatre, 8 Alpha St, Cambridge
28, 29, 30 June 2017
$10 and $20

Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
19, 20, 21, 22 July 2017
7.30pm  or 08003835200
$10 and $20.

The Playwright:

Suzie Miller is a multi-award winning playwright who has been in residence and/or attached to the following theatres: Ex Machina Quebec for a month with Robert Lepage (2012).  In 2012, two new plays were produced: The Sacrifice Zone, which premiered in Toronto and toured internationally; and Driving Into Walls at the Australian Perth International Festival, followed by the Sydney Opera House in 2013 and other international festivals.

Other recent plays: Everything I Have at the Perth International Arts Festival, Sydney Opera House; DUST (premiered at the Heath Ledger Theatre with Black Swan Theatre Company in 2014); Overexposed (opened in 2014); and Medea at La Boite Theatre. Two Geordie Boys is being developed with LIVE Theatre Newcastle and Enlightening Entertainment London.

Amongst other awards and nominations Suzie has won the 2008 National Kit Denton Fellowship for writing with courage; shortlisted for the 2010 and 2008 Australian Writers Guild Award for drama, and currently nominated for two AWGIEs for 2013; shortlisted for the Griffin Award 2009; Winner of Inscription 2009 and 2006: mentored by Edward Albee 2009; Winner 2008 New York Fringe Festival ‘Overall Excellence Award for Outstanding Playwriting’ and in 2005 winner of the Theatrelab award. Her plays have won 9 equity awards, and Helpmann awards. Caress/Ache was first staged by Griffin Theatre Company, Sydney in 2015.

Dr Mark Anders, a paediatric cardio-thoracic surgeon: Richard Homan
Saskia, Cameron's wife: Megan Goldsman
Cameron, a poet, Saskia's husband: Calum Hughes
Alice, Peter's mother: Mandy Faulkner
Arezu, a young Iranian-Australian: Cian Gardner
Libby, Mark's wife: Mary Rinaldi
Belinda, a call centre worker: Megan Goldsman
Cate, a call centre worker, Adam's mother: Cian Gardner
Peter, Alice's son: Calum Hughes
Adam, Cate's son: Richard Homan
Airline attendant: David Simes
Surtitles: company
Operating theatre assistants: David Simes, Cian Gardner, Mandy Faulkner
Airport travellers: company

Director: Gaye Poole
Production manager: Gaye Poole
Stage manager: Missy Mooney
Lighting & sound operator: James Smith
Marketing: Megan Goldsman, Gaye Poole
Graphic design: Vincent Owen
Videography: Luke Jacobs
Stills photography: Michael Smith

Theatre ,

Very strong performances and slightly disconnected narratives

Review by Ross MacLeod 20th Jul 2017

Artworks with interlocking narratives always run the risk of one or two orphaned plot threads: stories that never seem to connect with the main plot or theme. Caress/Ache is a curious example of this with large threads feeling detached or tenuously connected to the rest.

This is not to say that these narratives are poorly formed in their own right. A plot line about an Australian-born Iranian woman exploring her identity is a compelling one but has only one incidental plot link with other threads and feels thematically adrift from them. A plot thread about a relationship unravelling after an affair has more of a thematic link with the idea of the importance of physical human contact though still remains a largely independent narrative.

Of all the play, these two sections also feel a bit repetitive in dialogue and unnaturally poetic in their language. The actors all perform strongly in these scenes but I can’t help feeling the stories belong in other plays. The fact that the show starts off with a lot of scientific facts between scenes then largely forgets about them makes it feel like the playwright’s focus shifted as the work developed.  

The core narrative is based around the convergent threads of a mentally scarred surgeon and a mother desperate to hold her son one last time before his execution. Both are elegantly crafted and evolve cleverly, though there are a couple of moments where they labour their point a little too hard. The whole play works up to a well-earned catharsis at the end, reaffirming the importance of the themes of touch and connection.

The cast play multiple roles and give strong performance across the board. Richard Homan’s stiff, buttoned up surgeon Mark bubbles with anxiety and frustration under the surface, the facade slowly cracking over the course of the play. His character is both alienating and sympathetic, exploring the paradox of a man who has dedicated his life to the most invasive of physical contact now unable to connect. Homan’s other character scene as an autistic child is a wonderful piece of physical and character acting, delivered with authenticity and respect.

As fragmenting lovers, Megan Goldsman and Calum Hughes attack the roles with fearless passion although they are slightly undercut by the script, as mentioned above. Both are more relatable in their alternate roles, Goldsman drawing out some great comedy as a self-confident call centre worker and Hughes tragically sympathetic as a young man facing his death.

Though her detached plotline is more a character exploration than a narrative, Cian Gardner makes a compelling Arezu, delivering the Australian-Iranian’s story in a series of monologues. And as Cate, the call centre worker, she works her expressive innocence and compassion into some tender and hilarious moments.  

Mary Rinaldi’s Libby is a steady offset to her husband Mark with her increasing attempts to retain normality and Mandy Faulkner sells the frustration and despair of a mother forced into grieving before her son is even gone. Credit, too, to David Simes in a small role as an airline attendant whose politeness is stretched to the limit.   

This is a play of very strong performances and slightly disconnected narratives. But it keeps focus and manages some uncomfortable moments without lapsing into gratuitousness. The programme warns of explicit language and it’s certainly right to. But while much of the material is dark, this is not a grim play. We are left with feelings of hope and reconnection upon curtain call. 


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