Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Can Leave, Did Leave

Last weekend I went to the opening of Can't Leave Tomorrow Alone, a play whose title is suspiciously reminiscent of a Bond film. I was looking forward to it, quite a bit really, perhaps for the potential Bond-factor (I was thinking knife-throwing midgets and deadly-yet-open-minded ladies in lycra playsuits). Didn't really work out that way.

We got incest, kidnapping, psychological torture, miscarriage, human trafficking, pedophilia, bondage, irresponsible Elizabethan ruff-wearing and a whole lotta shouting. Oh, the shouting. Part of the problem with the shouting stems from the venue. When you're performing in Theatreworks in St Kilda, you have to be loud to be heard since the space is so huge. But if you're loud, you end up getting lost in your own echo. They really, really need to invest in some kind of cladding for the roof or even painting it with an absorbent coat or something. Or more curtains. I don't know - I'm just a big picture guy.

But the shouting was also a feature of the play itself, which started things off at an emotional level of about 9 or 9.5 and got to ten in a couple of minutes. Doesn't leave much room to move, there. And watching a play at that heightened emotional frequency for nearly two hours is bound to leave you with strong impressions, good or bad. In my case, I like some modulation of tone, and at times probably had a pretty sour look on my face, as if I'd just taken a gulp of milk and felt solid bits go down.

The story concerned a wealthy couple who buy a third-world baby. When baby is all grown up, we find that Dad has just gotten her pregnant and Mum is in a state of denial over the whole situation. Baby soon gets kidnapped and held prisoner by a weird, creepily zen-like dude whose face we don't see much of. The expected amount of hilarity ensues.

Helen Thomson gave the piece a right old excoriation in today's Age, and I think she went too far (there were good elements to the play, and the story had more to it than she gave credit for). But the negative aspects were too much for this viewer: after someone miscarries, is it really necessary to bring the lights up on a massive jar of tomato paste? And when someone burns their house down with themselves inside it, does tipping said jar of paste over their own head really work as a symbol? Actually, I'm beginning to wonder if it wasn't the tomato jar that was behind every flaw in the play.

Maybe I'm getting it wrong. Maybe it was a Howard Barker-type Theatre of Catastrophe piece set in a contemporary and recognisable world. But then again, I've never liked Barker that much, either.

Maybe it should have been a bit more like this:

Tell me there isn't more drama and excitement in that collage than you'll find in a thousand local productions. I have no idea what those images are from, by the way, or why someone felt the need to put them all in one place.

I left Can't Leave Tomorrow Alone really quickly, and even though it wasn't opening night, I didn't even glance at the catering.

Was there even catering?

I don't know, because I didn't even glance at it.

I just mentioned that.

Are you even paying attention?

1 comment:

richardwatts said...

Yes. we're paying attention.