Monday, May 5, 2008

The Packer

At The Old Fitzroy Theatre in a local pub, a Coop production of a one man show called THE PACKER written by Dianna Fuemana. This work has a long performance history and the actor JAY RYAN has been associated with it since its workshopping in New Zealand in 2003. He has performed it in New Zealand, The Edinburgh Festival and recently in Melbourne. This is clear in the performing. Jay Ryan impersonates 8 different characters over the course of the work (approximately 60 minutes with a 20 minute interval). There is a deft physical skill and embedded ownership in the impersonations-each character having strong "iconic" gestures to help us identify them as he switches from one to the other. He plays both sexes and all ages and some ethnic diversities. The vocal work is characterised well (although there seemed to be some strain). This is a Bravura performance of honed skills. The joy is in watching this young actor enjoying performing. It is contagious.

However the writing is not very insightful. All the characters are superficial observations and in clich├ęd activities. The Director of this production (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor) has attempted to give the characters something more than skin deep projections but the writing does not allow for much opportunity. So, in directed silent moments or in extra long transfers from one character to another the director tries to give the audience and actor more time to endow the life forces with something more than a stand up comedy dimension. When one compares the other one person piece on in Sydney at the moment: Robyn Nevin's work in THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, the depth of JOAN Didion's text and the characterisation of the actress leaves a much more satisfying experience.


Aubrey Mellor said...

Congratulations Kevin! How wonderful that you are doing this! Let's hope your site becomes as famous and important as Alison Croggon's Melbourne blogg. I missed the Sydney season, but when The Packer was presented in Melbourne over three years ago, I was struck by the originality and genuine freshness of the text. Far from cliched, I found the world of pacific-rap-slang to be entirely new and surprisingly closer to New York's Harlem than anything heard in Sydney. When I compare it to the tired old territory revisited with a scalpel by Joan Didion, in non dramatic material, together with the self-confessed lack of characterisation in Robyn's 'witnessing' of it - rather than acting of it - I have to disagree with you entirely. I want the life and blood of the young minorities' struggles of today, and not the cold recollections of aged, wealthy, famous 'literary' types who fnd themselves vaguely surprised that there are such things as loss and pain in the world.

Anonymous said...

Having now seen both Redgrave and Nevin in the role I can categorically say that Nevin is a regional hack. I am disappointed in you Kevin for not seeing through her affectation and melodramatic imitation of vulnerability. The comparision between the two actresses is astounding. The production here felt parochial in every way and while we may all be smiling politely at Cate's very sweet attempts at directing (like watching NIDA directing students' staging) after three productions I don't think it is unreasonable to expect more than competence. I doubt I shall ever forgive the gothic horror version of "Blackbird". This is our flagship stage we are talking about - at what point do we demand directors of real stature, experience and range to bring more to the stage than what we saw in her interpretation of "The Year of Magical Thinking"? I am sick of having foyer conversations about how tepid her work is as a director. So the Artistic Director is an actor... let her act - it's what we all want to see her do anyway. Please stop making her/letting her direct. We don't need another mediocre director. When did we stop wanting genius on our stages?

Chris B

Anonymous said...

"Which plays do you give thumbs up to?"

Where is the 'None of the above' option?

Anonymous said...

Hey BB Horner,

I was trying to keep it positive! Any suggestions for the next poll?

Pearl (Moderator)

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with Aubrey. It was a sensational piece of theatre. There is just no way you can compare these shows!