Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Select (The Sun Also Rises)


Based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway 
By Elevator Repair Service

By Lucy Wilson

It’s rare to experience theatre these days with a cast of ten and a running time of over three hours. It’s also rare for a New York Theatre Company to stage an Ernest Hemingway novel in Hobart. Rumoured as the headline show for this Ten Days on the Island Festival, the award-winning company, Elevator Repair Service, staged The Select (The Sun Also Rises). It’s a semi-autobiographical 1920’s novel about the lost generation of post-war Brits and Americans spending decadent alcohol drenched days in Parisian cafes and visiting a famous bull fighting festival in Spain.

Revolving around lust, love, jealousy and drinking drinking drinking, the audience is taken from one mans heart to another in pursuit of a woman who’s “frightfully unhappy” unless she’s in the grip of a love-chase. In a pace that witnesses five of these liaisons, the audience’s attention is kept buoyant by energetic and impeccable performances, with snappy choreography to catchy music (which still roams through my head days after seeing it). There’s a polished sense of humour in the witty text; in the sound effects in sync with the popping of corks, pouring of beverages and clinking of glasses; and some marvellous laugh-out-loud comedic cameo moments. The cast is entertaining to watch purely as interesting, beautiful and varied people on stage, regardless of the detailed set.

With all this though, in my first encounter with Hemingway, I was unconvinced by the lust, love, jealousy or anger from the roll out of war-deranged masculinity. The friendship/fraught love between the impotent protagonist and the promiscuous star was the only genuine connection, as they said to each other at the end “We could have had such fun together … Isn’t it pretty to think so.” Perhaps this is the intention of both the novel and stage show? Perhaps it’s an accurate representation of post-war British “chaps”? But the final clinching seduction of the matador Pedro Romero (played by a woman) left me wondering what to make of it. The packed opening night audience (who left bottles and glasses from their interval drinks in clusters on the exit stairs, as if the set had spilled out onto the street) seemed in a mix of excitement, tiredness and awe.

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