About Time You Saw: Antipodes, Dorfman TheatreBy Gilly Hopper
Pulitzer prizewinning playwright, Annie Baker’s latest output is all about storytelling.
Set in a boardroom, this two-hour, one-act presents a rolling corporate brainstorm session for an unspecified product. Participants switch off their phones and sit around a table telling, categorising and theorising stories.
“Pigmies, giants, griffins…” Brainstorming has begun and right from the off, Antipodes, true to Baker form, is ambiguous. Participants include Sandy’s assistant Brian (Bill Milner), the laptop scribe; two Dannys, identified as “Danny M1” (Matt Bardock) and “Danny M2” (Stuart McQuarrie); Dave (Arthur Darvill), who is in awe of his own job; Eleanor (Sinéad Matthews), the only woman seated at the table; Adam (Fisayo Akinade), the most softly spoken of the bunch; and newcomer Josh (Hadley Fraser). The meetings are frequently interrupted by bubbly secretary Sarah (Imogen Doel).
Time is measured in the outfit rotations of secretary Sarah’s slinky dresses. A game of free association and exercising of imagination ensues. The players say funny things, odd things, unsettling things and the work rolls along. Baker, known to allude to rather than specify on, does not focus too much on plot and yet with a dramaturge’s comfort blanket stripped away, manages to present significant, farcical and revealing moments of drama.
From technical glitches on a conference call to race and gender politics, dialogue ping pongs as each character’s perspective brings a new line of inquiry and/or inanity. Variations of a story, fragments of ideas all spew out before us; a messy mind map still to be compartmentalised.
The Antipodes, meaning the opposite of something, has also been known to refer to a place and creatures on the opposite side of the earth. They represent a kind of outer space that can be imaginatively populated with duplicate or dramatically different aliens. Is Baker’s Antipode’s a representation of alernate universe? Probably not. Though, with Baker, nothing is absolute.
Delivering yet another cryptic work of splintering readings, Antipodes can be chalked up as a pertinent head-scratcher by a schismatic playwright.