In the program notes there is the Bumming With Jane poem by Charles Bukowski and a quote from Doris Day.
This play has all the inclinations of the middle class romantic fantastic fawning over the glamorous grunge of Bukowski but with a 9o% feel of the world of Doris Day in its bourgeois sentimentalities (Drunk is romantic. The life of the self disenfranchised is a positive experience especially if you have love to get you through. etc) (Crazy, because even though darling Doris is quoted as saying “The important thing in life is just loving and living.” she always had a great job to permit her to do just that, and for her in great Metro-Goldwyn Mayer style- designers, designers, designers.)
In this play we are presented with two middle class generation "Y" slacker narcissists, Patrick and Jane, who have no jobs and don’t want a job (They keep quitting). One who feels able without conscience to feel ok about allowing oneself to trade sexual relations with a predatory older but richer individual (Beverly, the landlady) for free rent for three years and then feel entitled to live with another individual in the same apartment for two further years, deny the original sexual predator sex and still live rent free. To feel entitled to take advantage of the Government dole rules to indulge in loving sex and bottles and bottles of the legal drug of wine, wine, wine. (Red Wine.) And to be shocked to learn that there are consequences to choices and are bewildered when the landlady finally has them evicted and that Jane is pregnant. DUH, if you don’t pay your rent might you lose your apartment?!!! Double DUH, if you keep quitting your job might you lose the government hand out?!!!!! Triple DUH, if you have lots of sex might you end up pregnant?!!!!!! DUH. DUH. DUH. DUH. YES.
How interesting to meet another generation "Y" play, after Saturn’s Return last week. Assuredly a different strata of the constituency in almost every way but with the same self absorbed entitled view of living. Where the world will turn to fulfil your central needs ,of course, or where the shiny glam magazines tell us we are been ruled by astronomical and astrological convergences and hence the crisis in our day to day living. No realisation that we set the circumstances into action and the consequences are of our own making. That the great big human world of politics economic and other is what shapes our lives ultimately. Just who am I meant to empathise with in this play?
This is the case of a promising young writer who has written an early draft of an idea and then felt it was time to show it to an audience. When really, in my opinion, it is not ready and needs much more work on Characters, Plot and Thematic Issues and Ideas. (Almost everything needs dramaturgical attention.) It has promise, a quirky introduction of stylistic genres . (Naturalism, Musical Theatre, Direct interaction with the Audience etc) some interesting writing eg. The landlady’s speech early in the play. But, you keep working at it, or put it in the draw and begin anew. It is telling that the writer is the producer. However it is also a recognisable fact that this project would not have seen the lighting in the Downstairs Theatre at Belvoir unless the Artistic Curators for B Sharp felt that this was a necessary product for us to see – so that the program (at B Sharp) can continue to grow "to hold a unique place in the Australian Theatre landscape…and to tell stories that need to be told up close". This play has had a premature exposure. I hope the writer and the Artistic Company that has worked with the B Sharp production arm have not been too devastated by the very divided response. I know that the gift that the B Sharp Artistic Team gives the successful applicants for the opportunity to play in this space is very competitively sought and I can not fathom the reasoning of this choice except the necessity of having a quota of New Australian work. This, historically, is, of course, one of the "crimes" of the Australian Theatre where good writers with good ideas are thrust onto the stage before proper and satisfactory development has been allowed to happen before production exposure to the paying public. Many a play has disappeared because of this pressure and some more fragile but potentially interesting writers have given up. If this was the best Australian text offered at B Sharp then we are in trouble as a culture and it is in contrast to the Stablemate choices. (COLDER for example.)
It is ironic to contemplate that in the Belvoir building at the moment we could witness the sublime writing of Wajdi Mouawads’ SCORCHED and the premature BUMMING WITH JANE, knowing as well that AN OAK TREE vacated the space to allow this juvenile writing in and amazingly Tony Kushner’s play HOMEBODY/KABUL is to follow. Truly the sublime with the ridiculous. Sadly it is the Australian work that is wanting……………
The young director has collaborated with the writer on this play. It needs more work. The actors are presenting two dimensional portraits of the characters, there is no real revelation going on, mostly showing us, indicating, what is going on and the director has not been able to elicit depth from them. The best collaboration has been with the Set Design (Melanie Paul) and a very interesting Lighting Design (Sophie Kurylowicz) and very simple and pragmatic Soundscape (Rosie Chase).
If BUMMING WITH JANE and SATURN’S RETURN is a reflection of Gen "Y" then there is concern. You know I know it is not a reasonable reflection. Then why is the dramatic literature that is revealing their stories so superficial? Their world turning on what we would find in the Tabloid news sources instead of the news we might find in the serious Broadsheets. The return of the planet of Saturn into our lives instead of war, drug devastation, economic recession or climate change or even just plain corruption (Government or political party rorting) Is it that our young Australian writers can not see any audience and therefore no money or fame output in the consequences of discussing serious matters and the way they shape our lives but can in the commercial interests of the escapist great unwashed? The problematic image for me in BUMMING WITH JANE is when the characters of Jane and then Patrick rock the surrogate "baby" in their arms. The image is an empty glass gherkin jar filled with silver coins. Has this generation sold its humanity and compassion for serious examination for "thirty pieces of silver" in a jar? Is this what they have given birth too? Well, we will soon know more as the SYDNEY THEATRE COMPANY prepare for us, from Queensland La Boite’s production of THE NARCISSIST by Stephen Carleton.
This is a Co-Op Production.
Playing now until 7 September 2008. Bookings online or call 02 9699 3444.