Thursday, May 27, 2010

Don't Think Twice

A Double Bill:
Partly It’s About Love... Partly It’s About Massacre (Fiona Sprott) and
Andrew Corder Thinks Twice (Finegan Kruckemeyer)
Tasmanian Theatre Company
Backspace Theatre
May 27, 2010
by Anica Boulanger-Mashberg

If you think you can’t make fantastic theatre out of one actor in one small theatre, then think again. Think twice, if you will excuse the cheap pun.

As a rule, I don’t adore one-person shows. I find them hard work, and I get lonely: I crave interactions on stage. But with the Tasmanian Theatre Company’s latest offering, I am reminded that restriction is not always a negative, but rather can be the generator of great beauty and surprising moments.

In the first of these two one-person works, Charles Parkinson directs Sara Cooper in an energetic, even frenetic, and mostly sympathetic journey of a familiar modern woman who has misplaced herself in a wearying world of anti-romance and disappointment. Cooper has this character firmly under her thumb and is barely given a moment’s rest, except when an overhead projector offers us some of her unspoken thoughts and occasionally the words of her maligned lover/fiancé (as the play moves through the chronology of their relationship).

While there are moments of humour – and the audience ardently and vocally identified with many all-too-familiar quirks of the modern, suburban relationship – the script struggles to endear its story to us. I’m left wondering how on earth this rather manic woman ever managed to maintain the relationship at all, and, perhaps even more perplexingly, why she wanted to: the moments of insight into any actual affection for her partner are few and far between. But then, perhaps that is Sprott’s message: how did we all get ourselves so far into these mundane lives that we’re not even sure we want?

Parkinson guides Cooper through a committed and honest portrayal of the frustrated woman, and high points are an amusing re-enactment of an encounter with a priest, and the genuinely moving final scenes. But, ultimately, I felt unfulfilled by this narrative, and longed for a more powerful vehicle for the creative partnership between Parkinson and Cooper.

It was Finegan Kruckemeyer’s new work which really excited me in this program. An unsettling tale of a slightly self-righteous man who is unexpectedly hijacked by thoughts and dreams as a complete stranger in Palestine, Andrew Corder Thinks Twice is funny, open, and beautifully poetic. Kruckemeyer plays with the literal and emotional isolation of his central character – letting Andrew narrate his own experience in a surreal yet entirely unaffected manner – and easily navigates this rather absurd journey.

I attended a reading of this play last year, and had high hopes for the TTC production: expectations thoroughly rewarded. Annette Downs brings out the very best of Ryk Goddard in his portrayal of Andrew Corder, and the rich yet minimal design (by Robert Jarman, who originally commissioned the work) echoes the elegance, the sophistication, and yet the grounded integrity with which Kruckemeyer characteristically charms language into doing what he wants. What he wants is to amuse, to surprise, to captivate, to beguile, and to conjure, and this production succeeds on all counts.

Goddard’s Corder is witty (even – especially – during an incident of severe technical failure which unfortunately brought the production to a temporary halt in its first few minutes), engaging, fallible, idiosyncratic, and yet somehow everyman-ish.

Though I found the partnering of these two scripts a little mystifying, it is still a worthy evening’s entertainment: get yourself down to the Backspace before it’s time to hibernate for Hobart’s winter.

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