‘The Antipodes’ review – Storytelling roundtable is a brainstorm in a teacup

The most intriguing story in Annie Baker’s elaborate boardroom tale is the one that’s left unspoken – ★★★

We all appreciate the need for stories in our present society (or ‘yuga’), and the John playwright’s latest work The Antipodes has plenty. Gathered around a table, six individuals are tasked with creating a new piece of work between them.

Rules are broken and taboos challenged when the creatives have the space to think – both in terms of Chloe Lamford’s expansive set and leader Sandy’s many departures from the meetings – though there is a point whereby their imaginative thinking becomes excessive. Opening with confessionals about sexual encounters certainly offers an unconventional form of character insight, but the absurdity is more uncomfortable and perplexing than comedic.

With a mixture of bizarre and amusing stories to tell, the playfulness of the cast when delivering their tales is obvious. It is in the talent of actors like Stuart McQuarrie and Imogen Doel that anecdotes about chickens and sentient dolls become completely captivating to listen to.

Though with a running time of a full two hours, the group’s many ideas are shared in rapid succession. If there is meaning in the inventive stories the characters tell, then there isn’t much time to process it. Instead, the clever subtleties are buried in amongst the metaphorical. To some, it is sophisticated, but to me, it makes me wonder if there is any substance, point or purpose to the more realistic aspects of the show.

The only chance to unpick them comes at the play’s conclusion, at which point there’s the sense that what the script implies about storytelling – rather than what it says – is the most impactful aspect of this unorthodox production.

The Antipodes is now playing at the Dorfman Theatre until 23 November.

Production Images: Manuel Harlan.

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