Review: North of Eight Finds Its Voice By Presenting a High Level of Creative Maturity in John Corwin’s ‘Navy Pier’

What happens when you steal someone else’s life for the chance at success?  Ensemble company North of Eight presents John Corwin’s heartbreaking play, Navy Pier at The Courthouse Hotel with creatively compelling maturity through a complicated web of deception, distrust and despair.

Navy Pier is a touching story about two aspiring writers desperate to find their own voice.  While attending university together, Kurt and Martin share with each other their creative writing ideas.  Kurt is the social stunner; the magnetic force with all the ladies and an appealing physique of perfection.  On the other hand, Martin struggles to fit in in social settings but finds contentment in his relationship with girlfriend Iris.  However, when Martin writes a winning piece for The New Yorker’s latest competition, Kurt takes matters into his own hands to keep himself on top.

As a fine selection for its first season, ensemble company North of Eight elegantly captures the dynamic and intricate weaving story elements resounding throughout Corwin’s brilliant writing.  Director Phoebe Ann Taylor creative navigates the actors to weave in between, in front and behind audience members forcing the audience to be confronted with such tragic circumstantial outcomes.   A pull of contrasting emotions electrify the room as relationships evolve quickly (like the passionate  romance between Kurt and Iris, captivatingly portrayed by Pat Moonie and Jessica Stanley) or progress slowly (like the stumbling, awkward beginnings that shape between Martin and Liv, portrayed by Mark Salvestro and Siobhan Connors).  

The play also produces a sprinkling of subtle details found in the set and sound design. The floor is littered with ripped and stained pages from literary books.  The room’s pillar that sits in the middle of the floor becomes a natural divide between the narratives as well as a device to influence playful interactions between lovers.  Fading in and out of transitions between acts melodramatic music, resembling that of such 90s television series Dawson’s Creek or the 1990s movie Reality Bites provides the audience a moment to digest and reflect on the bitter reality of the emotional turmoil mounting in amongst them.

True to an ensemble piece, it is hard to say who gives the stand-out performance.  Moonie portrays Kurt with both a suave, righteous air coupled with a magnetic likeability that even through the revealing of his deceptive choices one cannot help but for some empathy for his circumstances.  Similarly, Mark Salvestro carefully balances a portrayal of Martin not solely as a victim but as a fighter who just wants the taste of victory to validate himself for a moment.  Connors and Stanley equally give breath to Corwin’s female counterparts as shining examples to the phrase, ‘Behind every good man is a great woman.’

Introduced to high levels of quality performances from North of Eight, one cannot help but wonder what more will they produce?  And when?  I am look forward to seeing the development of North of Eight as they continue to produce mature, thought-provoking and heartfelt stories that captivate and introduce audiences to profound writing from international sources.  

Navy Pier runs Tuesday through Saturday until 2 September at The Courthouse Hotel in North Melbourne.  Tickets can be purchased through the North of Eight website at www.northofeight.com.au.