By Holly Ferguson
Black Swan State Theatre Company’s latest production, Switzerland, is a psychological thriller full of suspense, solid acting and outstanding design.
A dramatic opening fills the audience with intrigue. The unique set designed by Bruce McKinven, with its slanted stage, evokes the feeling that something is not quite right … Long rectangular panelled walls convey Switzerland’s cold atmosphere through the dark monochromatic colour scheme whilst encapsulating an almost bare stage with nothing but a bench and writer’s table. Unexpected opening of certain panels reveals entries and exists, as well as Patricia’s creepy trove of weaponry.
Lucy Birkinshaw’s soft and diffused lighting is the perfect accompaniment to the set. Looming shadows cast over the panels add to the suspense and enhance the show’s psychological themes.
Sound designer and Composer, Ash Gibson Greig, creates Hitchcock-esque vibes with the supporting sound, which heightened the suspense to hair raising levels. Occasional added sound effects, such as a cup smashing and birds tweeting, were slightly jarring and out of place.
Jenny Davis [Patricia Highsmith] and Giuseppe Rotondella [Edward Ridgeway] were strong in their roles and carried the two-hander with ease. As a recent WAAPA graduate Rotondella shows a lot of versatility, not only in this role but also when compared with his performance earlier this year in The Lighthouse Girl. Davis portrayal of Patricia is perfectly probing and frightening (anytime she held the knife sparked my anxiety).
The characterisation of Ridgeway was slightly obvious at times and over directed. However, this did allow for clarity in distinguishing between him and Ripley.
The play overall is slightly confusing. It’s not clear until quite near the end where it’s heading. A lot of the script, in the first half especially, is ambiguous conversation. Such as the mentioning of snails and their inability to distinguish one another’s sex, which could potentially speak of wider themes of gender.
I can’t say that Switzerland is my favourite show of BSSTC’s 2017 season, however it’s still very much an enjoyable show with the set design being a personal highlight.
Switzerland runs until until Sunday 3 September you can purchase tickets at ticketek.com.au Ph 1300 795 012 and Ticketek outlets.
Switzerland will be broadcast live on Friday 1 September, 7.30pm from the State Theatre Centre to audiences in regional WA.