Written by Jacob Parker, directed by Hayden Tonazzi
Review by Charlotte Smee
When the sun explodes, a countdown begins. Eight minutes before all light disappears from the sun, and life on earth is lost. Tell Me Before the Sun Explodes follows queer couple Andrew and Chris at various points in time, with death always surrounding them. Whether it’s just after an ex-boyfriend’s funeral, or just before one character’s untimely death, the light of the sun is slowly disappearing as they flirt and fight for the bond they can’t escape.
Jacob Parker’s writing is fast-paced and sensitive, painting a portrait of how the same words can mean such different things at the beginnings and endings of a relationship. Very quick time jumps between scenes are aided immensely by Ryan McDonald’s lights and sound design by Chrysoulla Markoulli; the happy beginnings are bathed in warm light and the not so happy endings in cool blue tones. These transitions made Parker’s writing shine – making the story easy to follow and fall in to. The circular “sun” always in the background and distorted sounds from Chris’s phone and voicemails gave the production a dreamy, surreal feel.
Set design by Soham Apte was visually and dramaturgically effective, laying out the ruins and remains of Andrew and Chris’s relationship. At times it was not the most practical, with holes in the floorboards and bare beams meaning that the actors had to dance around the holes in moments that deserved full bodily attention.
Tim McGarry as Andrew was delightfully camp, bringing a nuanced and at times very funny approach to the fact that he and everyone around him are dying. Joshua Shediak’s Chris was a great foil to Andrew, bringing tender naivete and youthful wisdom in all the right moments. Shining moments of the two’s chemistry were their recreation of a wedding dance to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”, and the delightfully simple kiss they shared. Both moments were deftly aided by Hayden Tonazzi’s direction – gently building the tension between them as we witnessed the highs and lows of that connection they always come back to.
Tell Me Before the Sun Explodes had moments of precise writing, emotional complexity, beautiful light and sound design that came together to bring us a portrait of queer relationships and death anxiety. It was unfortunately limited by slightly impractical set design, that left me always on the edge of the story. An important piece of theatre nevertheless, exploring everything from cockroaches out the window to the ever-looming presence of the Grim Reaper.
Tell Me Before the Sun Explodes plays at the Kings Cross Theatre until 15 May. It is part of our May cheap thrills.
Find tickets here. Get $20 tickets on Thursdays for under 30s with the code KXT20for20s.
Images by Philip Erbacher
CAST & CREATIVES
Director Hayden Tonazzi; with Tim McGarry & Joshua Shediak
Producer Ella Griffin; Set & Costume Designer Soham Apte; Lighting Designer Ryan McDonald; Composer and Sound Designer Chrysoulla Markoulli; Assistant Director Sophia Bryant; Associate Sound Designer Zac Saric; Stage Manager Sybilla Wajon