Moving Parts: review

Colin Friels and Josh McConville. Photo: Matt Hart

Colin Friels and Josh McConville. Photo: Matt Hart

David Nobay is the creative director of an award-winning Sydney advertising agency. As a playwright, however, he is a novice. Moving Parts is his first play – and in many ways it shows – but he has been lucky enough to secure two very fine actors in Colin Friels and Josh McConville.

He has also gathered a creative team with a slew of international film credits with lighting by Russell Boyd (who won an Academy Award for Master and Commander), set design by Steven Jones-Evans and costumes by Margot Wilson, while Steve Rogers, a sought-after director of TV commercials and music videos, directs.

Produced by a new company called Will O_Rourke, the production certainly looks very handsome but the play itself still has a way to go.

Moving Parts is a 70-minute two-hander set in an exclusive London jewellery store. It’s almost closing time when a young man (McConville) arrives, ostensibly to buy a prestige watch. It’s not long, however, before we realise that he has other business with the shop owner (Friels).

Suffice to say the play explores family, self-worth, men’s struggle to communicate, resentment and reconciliation, using watches as a metaphor.

Some of the early dialogue feels self-consciously portentous, but there’s no doubt Nobay can write; it’s the structure that lets him down.

He manages to keep you wondering where the play is going but the twists and turns of the plot don’t build enough dramatic tension or particularly surprise you. Just when you think he is going to turn the screw, the plays veers off somewhere else and the tension dissipates.

There are holes in the narrative that need better explanation and a couple of major revelations fail to make the emotional impact they should. The regular use of blackouts also breaks the momentum and building of tension.

Friels is wonderful as the shop owner, moving from smooth-talking salesman to irascible Londoner whose wry, spiky humour covers untold hurt, his voice often a mere whisper. As usual, he performs with such raw honesty it hardly feels he’s acting.

The character and emotional journey of the brooding, younger, Australian man is less developed so McConville doesn’t have a lot to work with. He plays him in a (mostly) coolly restrained fashion that makes him hard to engage with.

The play ends abruptly without reaching a terribly satisfying conclusion but the performances make it worth a look.

NIDA Parade Playhouse until August 10.

An edited version of this review appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on July 28.