Company B presents the Ridiculusmus production TOUGH TIME, NICE TIME, written by Jon Haynes and David Woods at Belvoir Theatre.
There is a blackened stage with just a lit bathtub in the centre. The lights go down. I can see two men, in the dark, wrapped in white towels, enter, and sit in the small tub. The lights come back up.
Two men sitting in a bath, supposedly in a bath house, maybe in Bangkok, tell each other stories. The stories may be factual, they maybe distilled from film, fiction. The men maybe naked in the tub. There maybe water or not. They do have towels. (I do hear water gurgling down a plug hole!!) They may be straight, one of them says he is married, the other that he is not gay but tells stories of relationships with other men and lady/boys. One of them makes a physical play for the other. The other rejects it. But then they are both imbibing beer and some pills. Funny things happen under the influence. One, oddly, has a notebook and pen, he sometimes makes notes. He, wondrously, reads a very delicious, sexy story that he may have written from the notebook. The stories are sometimes sensational, and sometimes sordid. The stories sometimes sound vainglorious and sometimes outright pornographic. They are always interesting. They are often funny. They, depending on your life experience, can be shocking. Then, again, some novelistic fiction that has won prestigious prizes have been just as salacious. Nothing to be surprised or shocked me about except it is spoken out loud in public, in the presence of strangers who are surrounding me!! Ah, um. Should I laugh? Should I just be quiet? Should I object? Stand up and leave at such impertinent filth and tosh? Should I just relax and demonstrate my sophisticatedness? Should I just relax and enjoy myself? Maybe this is serious stuff. Maybe it is just a harmless leg pull. Indulge myself. Retrain myself. Surely this is not meant to be offensive. I am becoming a little uncomfortable about this experience and yet it is so wittily and confidently acted. The actors have such elan. Such a beautiful and trusting rapport. They are amazing to listen too. Am I being beguiled by their verbal rhythms and glorious timing and registers? They enfold each other seamlessly in meaning and sound. They do it at such a breathless pace that I hear them and I have time to think these questions, but they give me no time to answer myself, so, I am induced to sit and listen. I allow myself to be twisted about their magnificent technique.I pretend to force myself to stay, out of respect for their bravado of technique. Or is it that I am spellbound at the audacity of the whole concept of two men in a bath tub accompanied by the gurgling of water down a plug hole with a clever light show, basking these bodies in colours that shape, enhance and carve sculptures of visual pleasure and lustful temptations, confronting me with a world where fact and fiction, spin, are so intertwined that I am deliriously bewitched and paralyzed?
The actors, Jon Haynes and David Woods also wrote the play: "Tough time, nice time was created and written through a series of improvisations, reading and travel between 2005 and 2007. At first we talked of making a show about massacre. Something of this intention remained when we began to improvise and, over two years, produce two 'utterly repellent' characters who talked about massacre, genocide, celebrity and a plethora of other subjects while trying to tell and listen to each other's stories."
From a quote in the program by Jennie Erdal, GHOSTING: " Everyone tells stories. And all storytellers are liars. They have an excessive need to make sense of experience, and so things get twisted and shaped to suit. It need not be deliberate, but it's as well to admit that it happens. We fumble about in the fog, and patterns come to us eerily like distant foghorns over water. We put forward versions of ourselves. And versions of others." This is fairly much my experience of this work and much like my experience of AN OAK TREE, presented in the B Sharp season earlier in the year, their is a self conscious participation that is refreshing and challenging to have.
The performances are a wonder of ensemble,the technical offers; set and lighting (Mischa Twitchin) are abundantly supportive. I had a terrific time. I'm not sure that the writing is entirely rounded out. It is more interesting in its parts, than its whole. Worth catching.
Just a note of observation that I really can't pass by. Ridiculusmus have been guests of Company B. presenting this work and a version of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. (This latter work has already had a previous season in Sydney ) as a Festival Season. They have been resident for two months in the theatre. Next month, the whole of January, Company B with Sydney Festival present two other international companies. Certainly the work so far has been interesting but surely another venue could have presented this work. I can't help but feel sorry and alarmed for the Australian/Sydney actors who are unemployed. To quote the regular program note "Belvoir St Theatre's greatly loved Upstairs and Downstairs stages have been the artistic watering holes of many Australia's great performing artists..." But not for three months!!!! Not one Australian actor will have been paid to perform in this theatre for three months!!!! November, December and January. THREE MONTHS!!! This does not feel right that the Belvoir St Theatre has been so cavalier about the Australian Actor. I can't imagine that the Sydney Theatre Company could even dare contemplate such a season without objection from Equity and the Funding bodies. (The administration I imagine is on full salary.) Merry Christmas.
Playing now until 21 December 2008. Book online or call 02 9699 3444.