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ARTS THEATRE CRONULLA: The Tin Woman - Review by Matthew Giles

I must say, it’s always quite refreshing walking into a theatre and not knowing what you are about to see. When all you are told is the show name The Tin Woman, the imagination can’t help but ask all the questions, in particular, will she be singing ‘If only I had a heart?’ Strangely, this is what this play is about.

At the Arts Theatre Cronulla, The Tin Woman is a beautiful true story of a woman struggling with the after effects of a heart transplant and whether or not she deserves a second chance at life. With some encouraging persistence from a friend, she tracks down the donor’s family to find some form of closure, if at all. If you want to know more (and I can’t stress this enough) go see this show!

Michael Barlow plays Jack, the donor of the heart for Joy. Not once (if rarely) does Barlow leave the stage. An ever-consistent presence that floats between Joy and his family, Barlow seamlessly and effortlessly connects the two stories together with hardly a word! Barlow has a wonderful, calming presence onstage that you can’t help but watch with every move and choice he makes on stage, without ever taking the limelight from the other actors. I would helm him as the silent narrator, representing the audience, while also being the curator of healing for both Joy and his family.

Michael Gooley plays as Hank, the disgruntled, stoic and indifferent father of Jack. Gooley did a fantastic job with the arch of the character, with incredible resonance and strength as Hank. With a lot of pessimistic and harsh lookout on life, I personally didn’t like Hank at all, but by the end of the play, you can’t help but feel for the character and understand why he is like that throughout the play. Kirsty McGowan plays the lovable, eclectic Sammy. Being a young primary school teacher who is very much in touch of nature, while also moonlights as a podcaster, Sammy struggles to come to grips of the loss of his brother. Though personally I found it difficult to relate to Sammy, McGowan brings such great level of naivety and innocence to the role and has some of the best lines of the show. She really needs to stock up on more tissues!

Koren Chambers plays the role of Joy, the heart transplant recipient. Battling the reality of whether she deserves a second chance and facing the family of the heart donor, Chambers builds a lovely and (excuse the pun) heart-warming arc for the character of Joy. Usually sharing the stage with either Darla (Angela Gibson) or Jack’s family, Chambers provides great depth and realness to the character, exuding the dry and blunt lookout of life to finally finding the much-needed closure she has been seeking.  

Angela Gibson performs both the roles of Nurse and Darla. Gibson’s range between the two distinct characters is truly amazing to see. From being the soft, hearty Nurse that deals with Joy’s dry outlook post-heart surgery to the lively, cheeky but down to earth friend that is Darla. Gibson provides such a natural energy to both characters, with great comedic timing and chemistry opposite Chamber who plays Joy. And big kudos for the quick costume changes!

Playing as his wife opposite Gooley is Christiane Brawley as Alice. Dealing with the loss of her son, to mitigating her harsh husband Hank (Gooley) and wrangling her airy-fairy daughter Sammy (McGowan), Brawley exudes the meaning of Mum. Between the loving tenderness a mother always has, to the passive-aggressive retorts, to trying her upmost to keep her family going. Playing often opposite Hank (Gooley), Sammy (McGowan) and Joy (Chambers), Brawley shares great chemistry and is such a joy to watch.

The writing of this particular play is something to marvel at. The dialogue is clever and the flow of the story blends effortlessly between two perspectives, Sean Grennan weaves his tale with finesse and gravitas, while still being relatable. The production team, between the set to costume to lighting (and so on), brought a very unified performance. This is a key indicator that the vision of the director, Scott Brawley, has been incredibly strong and clear, certainly something to mention and celebrate.

If I were to really nitpick, it would be that I noticed that some of the sounds on occasion would abruptly end instead of a gentle fade out to provide a natural quietness. I only raise this as I am too a creative.

I highly recommend this show for anyone that just wants to see great theatre and a story that reaches the heart.


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