29 July 2012

Strobe no warning

Live dangerously. Strobe light. No warning. So we joked in the car as we drove home. Megan and I had just seen two short plays, God and Pool (no water) performed by the Everyman Theatre Company. This is local theatre, performed in a small space, the Courtyard Theatre, for a small audience, and thank God/s that this theatre exists. It’s a place for experimentation, challenge, humour, even if it does have its rough edges. The two plays were quite different, but the commitment and thought was evident.

God is an early Woody Allen play. It starts with playwrite Hepatitis and slave/actor Diabetes planning how to win a drama competition. Then through interactions with audience from Gunghalin and a quest to the King and the arrival of Zeus as the veritable deus ex machina to the accidental murder of the doll-God. It’s obviously corny and jokey but also sited in its relationship to Ancient Greece and it even deals with some meaty issues of courage and protection and perhaps adulthood in metaphor. The cast did a great job with lots of energy, slapstick presence, audience proximity and mock involvement and some minor props. I wondered how the script had changed for the original (was a phone call to Woody Allen in the original? Northborne Avenue and Gunghalin certainly weren’t). Nice to see a fellow workmate on stage, too, but it’s not the first time. God was written by Woody Allen, directed by Duncan Driver and performed by Jarrad West (Diabetes), Duncan Ley (Hepatitis), Wayne Shephard (Trichinosis), Euan Bowen (King and a Fate), Amy Tinycray Dunham (another fate), Zach Drury (guard). Three others (who came from the audience) are not mentioned in the brochure, Steph Roberts (Diabetes’ girlfriend) and an unnamed other.

Pool (no water) is a weightier production dealing with jealously, success, schadenfreude and such. Four unsuccessful artists visit a fifth who had been part of the team years back, but in now rich and successful amd owns a pool. They party and, later in the night, go to recreate their skinny-dipping exploits, but, in the dark, the successful woman dives into an emptied pool and is seriously injured. The four photographically record her time in hospital and recovery over several months while enjoying the wealthy lifestyle, then destroy the photos after the successful one turns them into a sellable exhibition. The successful one derides the failures and they end happy in suburban life, presumably accepting their artistic failure. The characters and carry on are not likeable or attractive. You can understand the frustration and subsequent pleasure in misfortune but, of course, you don’t admire it. There’s an awareness of failure by these four. It’s not conscious, but spelt out in drugs and sex as they delude themselves. Drugs and sex thus strobes and Hendrix, and skinny-dipping thus (discrete) nudity. This was performed with lots of energy, with four actors playing fives parts, with considerable drama and evident innocence. I was satisfied with the plot finale of settling to family and suburbia although I was uncomfortable that it came so suddenly after the successful one’s climax speech. But the presentation was involving and the theme was challenging. Pool (no water) was written by Mark Ravenhill, directed by Duncan Levy and the cast was was Jarrad West, Steph Roberts, Amy Dunham and Zach Raffan.

Everyman Theatre Company performs the repertoire (Richard III was mentioned) as well as these lesser known works. This was quirky and intelligent and relevant theatre and that’s how I like it.

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