Mark Colvin's Kidney

Margaret Helman
9th Mar 2017

Tommy Murphy's perfectly formed work Mark Colvin's Kidney unfolds as a timeless morality play. Even after the actors have left the stage and the houselights are shining - the space reverberates with the message of Johnny Mercer's song "You've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative..."

In this real-time story we meet Mary-Ellen Field (Sarah Peirse), an Australian working in London as an intellectual property consultant and ABC radio journalist Mark Colvin (John Howard).

A news story has broken world-wide revealing the scandalous and unethical behaviour of journalists employed by the Murdoch empire who have illegally hacked the voice mails of politicians, actors and fashionistas and published their personal messages.

Mary-Ellen has shared a decade long professional and personal relationship with her client Elle Macpherson (Helen Thomson) - who considers her as an ally and confidant. When Macpherson discovers her exposure through hacking she showers blame on Mary-Ellen Field - ruthlessly questions her mental stability and effectively undermines her and ambushes her into disappearing into a rehabilitation clinic in Arizona.

Mary-Ellen's story becomes news and Mark Colvin displays his finest instincts as a highly valued member of the Fourth Estate and contacts her.

The play's production team use enthralling techniques in sound and lighting and the minimalist set of alluring grey walls covered with shining Perspex unfold the text message relationship that develops between Colvin and Field.

Mark Colvin kept stoic and professional throughout their relationship - not revealing his dark story of a kidney illness that was fighting him for his life. The stakes are high for him.

Sarah Peirse is superb at delivering the strength of character and the integrity and moral compass of Mary-Ellen.

The play's tension reaches its peak when Mary-Ellen delivers the revelation to Mark that she has been engaged in an investigation to determine her blood type and overall medical state is ripe for her to donate him a kidney. Of course his immediate position is "no." His professionalism is challenged and he is firm that he could not countenance this acquisition. Mary-Ellen counters that argument with a fine speech that addresses his rejection of her moral stance - of the giver's desire being ripped away by the receiver.

All's well that ends well. The two characters were present at the opening night premiere of the play.

Is it a play or an opera? The director David Berthold has invested great licence in the actors to embrace their roles with compassion, dignity and humour. The production creative team also embraced the text and the direction and delivered a 'perfectly formed' new Australian play.

Mark Colvin's Kidney is on at Surry Hills' Belvoir St. Theatre until Sunday April 2nd. Production photos by Brett Boardman.