Thirty-Three, Leicester Square Theatre – Review

Shannon Steele and Corinne Furlong

There have been a number of studies that say that the time in our 30s is when people are at their most happiest (especially in Britain)! If the 20s are a hit-and-miss period, the 30s are about knowing what we want, regardless of peer pressure. Now that supposedly the goalpoasts have moved, our 30s are now our 20s – being responsible, but not to the point of it’s our raison d’être. In other words, old enough to know better, but young enough not to care… And at what age that that this epiphany allegedly crystalise? Thirty-three.

Red Scarf are an Australian theatre company based in London that champions new work. Their latest production at the Leicester Square Theatre looks at the ’30s’ conundrum amd what happens if during this period of ‘stability’, life has other plans for you, or indeed, if one behaves during adulthood as if one didn’t have any responsibilities at all…

On the evening of her 33rd birthday, Saskia (Corinne Furlong) receives a knock of her door. Instead of one of her expected guests, standing before her is… her younger brother Josh (Doug Hansell) – someone she hasn’t seen in three years. His ‘disappearing off the radar’ would warrant many questions at the best of times, but with what happened to their dad recently…

L-R: Amy Domenica, Ben Dalton, Corinne Furlong, Doug Hansell and Shannon Steele

Other guests arrive in ones and twos: Saskia’s best friend Maia (Amy Domenica) who is having marital difficulties with her husband, Lily (Shannon Steele) who may or may not have irrevocably broke up with her partner, plus Tim (Christopher Birks) – Maia’s estranged spouse and Lachlan (Ben Dalton) – Tim’s work colleague and a primary source for Tim living his ‘second youth’…

The early part of the evening goes well enough, but during the ‘lull’ when the more personal, intimate conversations take place, tempers are lost, probing questions are asked and ‘secrets’ are divulged… While alcohol obfuscates any awkwardness initially, it only later serves as a catalyst for ‘vino veritas‘…

On a separate note, as an Australian play, a few details about living in Sydney pop up. Firstly Saskia’s ground floor apartment (which she share with another woman) costs AU$700 a week (approx £420 – expensive even compared to London prices)! Also, Josh who has been living in Newcastle, New South Wales is only an hour and a half away from Sydney – that’s considered ‘close’. The last Red Scarf production I saw (RIDE) was based in Melbourne and replete with references to the city. Maybe it’s just me, but I always these little details fascinating and they ground the play in a palpable reality.

Maia (Amy Domenica) having a ‘heart to heart’ with Tim (Christopher Birks)

Meanwhile back on the ranch… the space at the Leicester Square Theate is ‘intimate’, but that’s only to the play’s advantage as the audience feels it’s eavesdropping on this piece of real life. Used to getting your fix of Neighbours and Home & Away? Forget them. There’s nothing ‘soap-ish’ about what goes on in Thirty-Three. That’s not to say if you like these soaps, you won’t enjoy this. Rather, Thirty-Three is a well-written and directed play (by Michael Booth & Alistair Powning and Kai Raisbeck respectively). Anyone who is au fait with Australian cinema such as Animal Kingdom and Oranges and Sunshine knows there’s a wealth of stories from there, that have gravitas as well as humour.

The whole ensemble’s well-cast in their respective roles, and while they bring levity to the earlier proceedings, they step up a gear when the play shifts from the celebrations to the respective backstories. The ‘shades of grey’ in their points of view are what lifts the play from conventional fayre, to a tale of dramatic weight.

© Michael Davis 2017


Thirty-Three runs at Leicester Square Theatre until 24th June 2017.

CAST: Christopher Birks, Ben Dalton, Amy Domenica, Corinne Furlong, Doug Hansell and Shannon Steele

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