Set in the 1980s, Emily is the story of, well, Emily (Jess Carroll), a young woman who is a successful trader in the family’s Wall Street company but who is also plagued by fears of being trapped; in career, in love, in life.
Stephen Metcalfe’s comedy drama is given earnest treatment by director, Warren McKenzie, liberally doused with flashes of eccentricity and winks to the audience. Indeed, Emily gives more than just winks to the audience. She regularly address the audience directly, as she critiques her progress and shares her internal reading of her situation and strategies.
Emily charts the competing fears and drives likely experienced by many successful women who were charting a course through the testosterone-drenched world of Wall Street, especially in the 1980s but most probably still pervading today. Can you be “successful” when you become to being someone else’s “other”, and what happens when pregnancy sends you out of the “race” for a few months or years? Carroll communicates the fragility of the outwardly-confident Emily, by playing the character in a stiff, self-conscious manner. She delivers lines of bravado but in a wooden way suggesting there is much frgility and hollowness behind the “performance”.
But what of the rest of the cast? The focus has been on Carroll thus far because this demanding role has her on stage and in the action for every single minute of this two-hour play. Not only does Carroll earn our respect for “successfully” being the backbone of the diaglogue, but the many costume changes that take place on stage, during her fourth-wall-breaking monologues, requires her to give completely of her body. From full custume to underwear and back again, further underlines this production’s exploration of applying an x-ray to this female character.
Back to the rest of the cast. Emily’s dominant love interest is John (Stephen Bills), a waiter who gets drawn into the tornado-like void of Emily’s inner world. Bills embodies a lanky, fish-out-of-water with aplomb, bringing the audience along with him as he gets his bearings and then tries to make sense of his plight.
Andrew Horwood plays various bar tenders in various guises – the Mexican-themed scene was a hoot – but reaches the zenith of his performance as the head of the investment firm, Hugh. Horwood, carries the role, not only with bluster and power but also with glimpses of his own hollowness and fear.
The fellow traders (Christian Dewar, Adam Schultz, Josh Van’t Padje, and Aled Proeve), painfully capture toxic masculinity in its complexity (some fragments of care and empathy exist in the mix but are frantically hidden and shuffled away from the surface).
Emily’s mother, Deidre (Therese Hornby), is another broken character with dismissive bravado, played enjoyably by Hornby. Likewise Leanne Robinson’s Hallie, brings many laughs along with some painful moments of reflection.
All in all, Emily is a satisfying night of theatre, taking a view of Wall Street through the inner world of a female protaganist. Well worthy of a trip to Marion, especially if you include dinner beforehand at the superb Warradale Hotel.