ith more plays on at the Bakehouse Theatre on Angus St this week than at the Festival Centre, I reviewed two of the plays that were on (with the third being one I saw at the Fringe). Wednesday night was The Event, directed by Daniel Clarke, and Thursday was The Good Doctor by Accidental Productions.
It was really a quite surreal experience, watching The Good Doctor the day after seeing The Event. I feel as if I am quite tuned in to directorial and actor’s choices under normal circumstances, I can understand the technical side of theatre while being swept away by the emotional side, but in this case every choice, every moment, every moment was seemingly amplified: a play about the technicalities of theatre completely transformed my way of experiencing another piece.
This review of The Event originally appeared on www.australianstage.com.au
The Event is a curious thing to write about on paper. So simple, so purely a derivative of theatre, it does seem like an extraordinarily strange job, to be a stranger, a professional observer, who sits in the audience and listens to the words written by a man in order to go home and write my own words in response to those words.
There is a stage, empty. There is a pool of light and in it stands a man. The man is an actor, the man is Nick Pelomis. But of course we’re not supposed to know that. To us he is just a man. And the man stands on the stage and speaks to us the words he memorised by another man, John Clancy. But we shouldn’t know that either. For weeks, the man on the stage read and spoke the work of the writer, and another man, Daniel Clarke told him how to say the words and how to stand and how to act. Just another thing we shouldn’t know, that should be obscured by the magic of the theatre.
And while The Event doesn’t introduce us to these particular people, it does introduce us to the curious curiosities which is theatre, drawing back the curtain of artificiality and narrating what exactly it is that makes a piece of theatre. The lines, the direction, the measured movements and the repeated choice, that manipulative change in the lighting: the performance of the thing.
With your attention brought to be so closely focused on the rehearsal, on the deliberate choice in every movement, every move the man makes is questioned: is this a choice? Is this rehearsed? Is this how he has done it before, will do it again? Or did I catch a moment of spontaneity? That couldn’t possibly have been rehearsed, that was here and now. Wasn’t it? Was it?
This is a testament to Pelmois and Clarke that even when constantly told this is theatre and this is not real, you buy into the character presented. I know, you say to yourself, that the play they are talking about is invented, but since this man is talking about that play, this play is real. Surely?
The counter to this, of course, is the audience becomes hyper aware to each stumbled word, each slight flub: ah, a mistake! I caught it! Under Pelomis’s hand there may be few victories in this game, but they become much more amplified than under any normal circumstances.
Clancy’s script succeeds the most when it is talking directly about the acting process and the audience (and the reviewers in the audience). At times, when steering away from this most elemental form, the primary message of the piece can get a bit lost, as the man goes into deeper reflections on theatre and society and the play stalls. But when it is at its best The Event is a side-achingly funny and clever look into stagecraft.
One which will probably never let you look at a man, standing in a pool of light on stage, in quite the same way again.
This review of The Good Doctor originally appeared on www.australianstage.com.au
A sneeze on the back of the head of General Mikhail Brassilhov in the theatre doesn’t turn out well for Ivan Cherdyakov. Peter Semyonych, seducer of women, attempts to show us how to sleep with a man’s wife, by using the husband to do the deed. Mrs Schukin is hardly impressed with the fact her husband was fired after five months of being unable to work, and she expects something to be done about that.
Funny and light-hearted amusement, The Good Doctor is modern American playwright Neil Simon’s take on the classical Russian works of Chekhov, as the Writer takes us through a series of sketches of his writings.
The further director Hew Parhman (forced to make a guest appearance on opening night as the cast missed their opening cue) and the five-person ensemble push the humour and clowning, the more successful the play becomes. Andrew Pantelis has a tendency to give too much reverence to his lines, particularly in the role of the Writer, but loses some of the stiffness as the play progresses.
Working in the small and inflexible Studio Space at the Bakehouse Theatre with limited sets and lighting the play truly rests on the shoulders of its cast. All actors need to work on development of their characters: including creating a bigger distinction between roles that doesn’t rely on simply changing accents, a rather inexplicable choice.
Regardless, the production belongs to Kyle Kaczmarczyk and, at times, Eddie Morrison as they demonstrate their ability to find the extremities of the comedy in Simon’s text. From the awkward and gangly physicality ofKaczmarczyk, to the overbearing or nervous energy of Morrison the biggest laughs are brought.
While the production has some shortcomings and the youth of the ensemble shows, ultimately it achieves a night of jovial and farcical entertainment. One hopes that through a dedication to creating self-produced works, the artists involved in companies such as this are only going to grow.
Daniel Clarke presents The Event by John Clancy. Directed by Daniel Clarke. With Nick Pelomis.
Accidental Productions present The Good Doctor by Neil Simon. Directed by Hew Parham. With Andrew Pantelis, Emily McMahon, Lucy Markewicz, Eddie Morrison and Kyle Kaczmarczyk