THE prolonged moment of audience silence at the end of Belvoir theatre company’s The Wild Duck is testament to the rollercoaster of emotion the performance takes its viewers on.
It gives way to thunderous applause but it is in the quiet darkness you realise the enormity of having experienced theatre at its most powerful.
Australian director Simon Stone’s daring adaptation of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s 1884 work premiered for the Sydney company in 2011, touring internationally before this season at Heath Ledger Theatre as part of the 2016 PIAF program.
Ruthless in its modern reimagining of family dysfunction, secrets and betrayal, the 75-minute (no interval) production makes its audience squirm with discomfort, fearful of the great sense of foreboding and heartbreak yet to come.
It is not all doom and gloom and the friendly banter between characters, including an unexpected reference to actor John Stamos, is welcome until the humour falls away to revelations and tragedy.
Stone has embraced the innovation of black box theatre, staging the production in a void space with glass panels between the six actors, plus a live duck, and the audience.
Yes, you read that correctly, a real duck who steals the spotlight on more than one occasion despite the commendable talent of all the actors.
The Wild Duck propels rapidly through one fateful week in the life of these characters whose lives are turned upside down, a television screen at either side of the stage keeping you informed of the time and day.
The snapshot of misfortune rockets along with seamless scene transitions, thanks to the lack of set changes, and punctuated by Stefan Gregory’s haunting compositions.
This is one production that will leave you stunned, emotionally shattered and grateful you bought a ticket.
The Wild Duck is showing at Heath Ledger Theatre until Sunday, March 13.