When dogs cry: Dudley St. Productions’ Lobby Hero

This review was written for Concrete Playground.

Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero, playing at the Tap Gallery’s intimate upstairs theatre, is a sprawling play about ethics, romance, family and ‘doing the right thing’. If you saw another of Lonergan’s plays, This Is Our Youth, at the Opera House two years ago with Michael Cera and Keiran Culkin, then you’d know that you’re in safe hands, as this production proves.
Lonergan’s play follows a security guard, Jeff, over the course of four consecutive evenings as he works the graveyard shift. His supervisor, William, visits from time to time, struck with a moral dilemma about his brother. Two police officers – Bill and Dawn – enter the lobby where Jeff works, bringing another twist or two to Jeff’s moral quandary.

Directed by Kevin Jackson, Lobby Hero takes a while to find its stride. There’s a bravado about it, a slow-building crescendo which eventually reaches breaking point, while underneath we find four people, each facing their own moral problems, each trying to find a way through, aching and breaking. Hitting its stride late in the first act, the play – under Jackson’s direction – bristled and sparkled with an energy and warmth, and as it neared its conclusion, despite the inevitable maelstrom of shorting tempers and swaggering bluster, you couldn’t help but want to reach out to Jeff and Dawn and William and try to reassure them that everything would, sooner or later, be alright.
Tom Oakley’s Jeff, essentially an Everyman character, is full of a luckless naivety which we can all empathise with; his scenes with Dawn are excruciatingly awkward at the same time as being honest and charming. Shari Sebbens’ Dawn is not afraid to speak her mind, determined to do the right thing and see that justice is brought to those who deserve it, but with Jeff we see another, more tender side to her. Dorian Nkono’s William is a larger than life character, but underneath his bluster and caricaturey performance, is a truthfulness, a portrayal of a man walking the knife’s edge between the right and wrong decision. Jeremy Waters’ Bill is a fiery character; as Dawn’s senior officer he is intimidating and insinuating, but in Waters’ hands, we too see the man inside him, see how he is torn by his choices and conscience.
While the production takes a while to find its rhythm, and seems to falter towards the middle of act two, it is a strong show. Played on Christopher Pitcairn’s sparse set, lit simply by Rachel Smith, and with minimal unobtrusive sound design by Pete Neville, this Lobby Hero is one you’ll be cheering for a while yet.

Theatre playlist: 36. Talk To The Fist, Nigel Godrich

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