Life for the Colby sisters is picture perfect. These high-society siblings have wealth, status and glamorous gowns. This impeccable ideal is swiftly shattered in Adam Bock’s biting, funny and tightly wound black comedy, which is having its world premiere at the Tricycle.
We first meet the elegant India Colby (Isabella Calthorpe) as she sits perched on a chaise lounge, draped in a billowing gown and gazing out into the distance. Her dream-like state is disturbed by the arrival of her cash-strapped sister Willow (Claire Forlani), followed by the uber-controlling Gemma (Charlotte Parry), the tortured Garden (Patricia Potter) and the serial-dating Mouse (Alice Sanders).
As the sisters convene for a photo-shoot, we learn that the prospect of working is just unimaginable and broken nails command as much attention as the revelation of a cheating spouse. The dynamic of their relationship pivots on rivalry, jealousy, bickering, divided allegiances and general unpleasantness; all enacted under the silent eye of Gemma’s personal assistant, Heather (Ronke Adekoluejo).
Under Trip Cullman’s direction, the pulse never wavers; it’s tense and makes for uncomfortable viewing throughout. Adam Bock’s catty characters are constrained by their image, their wealth and each other; aptly symbolised by the large frame-like screens that curtail the set.
References are made to their father’s behaviour and their mother’s suicide, but they remain just that, references. Given the duration of the play (75 minutes) and the tightly constructed pace, it’s forgivable. I did however, find myself willing Heather’s character to verbalise a sobering truth, or at least an opinion when outside the parameters of her employer’s demands.
The all-female cast deliver sterling performances. Claire Forlani, who makes her stage debut at the Tricyle, has impeccable comic timing. From the direction, to the costumes, sound, writing and performances, the elements of this production converge towards a point of style.
The Colby Sisters runs at the Tricycle until 26th July 2014
Photo credit: Mark Douet