When we climb up to the performance space at the SBW Stables you find that the whole of the interior has been painted white. (Set design: Anna Trelogan) Stage floor and walls, auditorium walls and even the further steps into the seating banks. The whiteness is quite a visual shock. Instead of the usual masking black paint there is the nakedness of the white that emphasises all the ugly blemishes of every surface. The production has been showing for several weeks, when I attend, so that there are also scuffs and blemishes on the floor surface. The lighting (Design: Niklas Pajanti) is very bright and is enhanced with party festooning of alternate naked white and blue bulbs. On the floor of the performing space is an inflated, circular, blue child’s wading pool with water and two inflated plastic balls, one purple the other clear with orange polka dots and a little further orange decoration, floating above the patterned floor of the pool. Two metal, maybe seventies, bar stools, one with an ancient beach like towel, folded and hung over the back, and an incongruous piece of furniture: a chaise lounge. On it is another old nondescript towel, it, too, neatly folded. While we sit in this slightly uncomfortable glare of white, the air-conditioning draughts, (blowing an Antarctic gale down my T-shirted neck) also pushes the plastic balls around the surface of the pool in a little ballet of movement. It is a necessary distraction of focus for we also can also “clock” the opposite bank of audience; most of them, in this unsympathetic light, revealing all their human blemishes, age being clearly shown at different stages of attack on their faces and decaying bodies, except for the horribly perkily fleshed youths, who in time I have to contemplate (and that should count the full running time (90 minutes) of the play, because they are fully visible during the performance), will swiftly succumb to time for “rosy lips and cheeks / Within it’s bending sickle’s compass (will) come”. I feebly imagine what I must look like to them(!!!), feeling my vulnerability more and more.
The lights go to a definite black out (after all that white, the contrast couldn’t be more noticeable) and when the blare of lighting returns on stage there are two people. Both embracing physically, middle age. One more advanced then the other. The actor playing Arno (Patrick Moffatt) is the more experienced liver of life, is wearing and old faded green t-shirt over his rotundity, and black, boxer like shorts cum swimmers, and sandals. The other actor playing Paul (Paul Lum ) is wearing a dark front patterned old T-shirt that really has shrunk over time and a pair of ragged jeans. The knee space on one leg is raggedly torn, the hems frayed and dragging on the floor. Later Paul strips down to “budgie” swimmers and both eventually become more vulnerable by sitting and splashing in the pool. All their body journeys revealed.
PAUL: What’s that?
PAUL: In the mail?
The conversation and the rest of the text of the play continues in a similar fashion. Conversations that are random in their connection. Non-sequential. Subject matter that has no real dramatic connection. We, randomly, get to hear about ordinary things in what might be ordinary everyday orders. Silences etc. We go briefly to a lot of subjects, interrupted by song and silences: the moon and telescopes..... the Himalayas and
PAUL: You think?
PAUL: Thank you.
HE SITS UP STRAIGHT. (The character’s posture is ridiculously not straight.)
There are enough subjects (I Have barely covered the cultural and social references mentioned) to trigger for most audiences, recognition and a sense “Oh I’ve thought that” or “I’ve said that” or “Isn’t that interesting.” Nothing is ever discussed in any depth. The conversation between Arno and Paul is totally superficial and uncluttered with any learning dramatic curves. There are no philosophical profundities made. The randomness and the multiplicity of references is what is presented. These people could be on holiday in a run down resort or suburban backyard. They are just being, living their lives, and the banality and superficiality of their conversation could suggest that they are actually permanently on holiday, from the world. The well spring of this work for Mr Cortese was “some kind of cultural investigation into holidaymaking inspired by the images of Western tourists sunning themselves amidst the carnage of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.” ( Ahhh!!)
This play and production was first presented in
My response to the production was initially disappointing. I had read Mr Cortese’s notes on the exploration he and the RANTERS THEATRE had been making over the past few years which resulted in 12 short plays under the title of ROULETTE. “My intention was to keep the writer’s voice absent in dialogue that focused on intimacy and the nuances of everyday speech. The dialogue is generated by unconscious action, from vital needs that overwhelm during silence and without overt intrusions on the part of the characters….. I wanted to create a sense of language being ‘live’ , energised and improvisational in feel.” From the Director’s Note (Adriano Cortese) to the published text of
The music score / sound design by David Franzke was sometimes too self consciously drawing attention to itself and to the “hidden” agenda thematics of the philosophies of the creators. I personally was longing for less concrete offers. I was wanting Muzak. Something more real or “bland’. Instead I got involved in to trying to identify the marvellous range of sourced material. It was as if, sometimes that there were two plays going on: the text and the sound design.
Rather than revealing anything in me that may have had a profound resonance so that it became “inspirational”, or experiencing “philosophical depths” I became becalmed then contemplative. I couldn’t help, (probably in my Sydney smugness) to begin to think that the winter months in
In the intervening time between the August 2007 premiere of this work in
Still after this conversation I walked down
How interesting! This is the fourth production, and it has been consecutively attended, that have had Melbournian origins.
Playing now until 28 February. Book online or call 02 8002 4772.