Two guys waxing eloquently about their shared experiences. That is the essence of The Twins, a play about friendship, redemption, loss and regret. It is set in a tin shed studio in Kangaroo Valley, NSW, over a single day towards the end of 2019. The pair chatting – comedian and actor Greg Fleet and documentary filmmaker and philanthropist Ian Darling – are in their late 50s.
They have come together to practice enacting a 21-character play as a two hander. I speak of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, which they performed alongside one another at Geelong Grammar in 1978. But rather than starting by agreeing on which characters each will play this time around, they reflect on the lives they have led and the challenges they have faced. Fleet is big on self-deprecating humour. Darling wishes he had been bolder.
They met at a boarding house connected to the school they attended in Form 2 and ever since Darling has looked out for Fleet. But that hasn’t always been easy, because Fleet went off the grid. For instance, after catching up in the mid ‘80s, they didn’t see each other again for another 13 years. Drugs – heroin, in particular – affected Fleet deeply. Incidentally, he has also been a smoker since the age of 13. Both his parents smoked. Cue a reenactment of the Marlboro advertisement. Fleet reveals how and when he was introduced to drugs (he links it to romance) and the result of that on people he cared about and mixed with. He, himself, almost died.
Darling and Fleet used to love acting together at school (they inspired each other), but Darling hasn’t been on stage for 40 years, while Fleet attended and was kicked out of the National Institute of Dramatic Art. They discuss how political correctness wouldn’t allow certain material to pass muster today. The Twins shines a light on what each have made of their lives.
Fleet is from working class stock. He had a father who allegedly committed suicide, but in time he reveals the truth about that. He describes his childhood as a war zone. He also released a tell all, warts and all memoir. Darling, who became a stockbroker, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth – a Toorak toff who moved to Prahran. His father was a wizard with a camera, but he didn’t tell his dad he loved him until it was too late.
Each had issues coping with the respective poor and rich labels assigned to them. Fleet has a familial regret, which he opens up about, recognising that time is running out to make good. He is also put out by an alert (which coincides appropriately with the timeframe in which the play is set) that attracts Darling’s attention on the latter’s fire app. Darling has brought with him a cardboard box, containing a grab bag of goodies, including Fleet’s book, a camera from his father, a monthly magazine that contains a feature interview, which describes him in terms he doesn’t much appreciate. Also, in that box there is his Order of Australia medal, which Fleet pockets.
The piece – written by Sarah Butler, Darling and Fleet, and directed by Terry Serio and Butler – has been described as theatre verité, a term drawn from cinema verité, which is all about truth in storytelling. Music stings drawn from a number of popular ‘70s hits punctuate the work to positive effect. Fleet and Darling continue to bounce off one another, mimicking actors and performances. They are alternately charming, friendly, provocative, cynical and accusatory.
It is just them, a cheap foldout table, four chairs, a couple of stools and that cardboard box on stage for just over 80 minutes without interval. They are both extremely talented. The conversation flows readily as we – the audience – are flies on the wall, taking a peek into their lives. As good as they are, an hour would have done me. I found The Twins a bit of a stretch. To me tightening it would have given the production more bite and punch.
Still, in spite of this reservation, there is much to appreciate about the concept behind The Twins – a look back at the lives of two mates who care about and for each other – which is playing at Gasworks until 16th May, 2021.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- The Gospel According to Paul (Arts Centre Melbourne) – theatre review
- My Dearworthy Darling (Malthouse Theatre) – theatre review
- Taming of the Shrew (Queensland Theatre) – Theatre Review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.