Friday, July 23, 2010
Like a Fish Bone
Sydney Theatre Company and Griffin Theatre Company present LIKE A FISHBONE: An Argument and an Architectural Model by Anthony Weigh, at Wharf 1.
LIKE A FISHBONE: An Argument and an Architectural Model, has The Architect (Marta Dusseldorp) with her Intern (Aimee Horne) about to take a model of their latest project to a presentation meeting to her commissioners when a strange woman, The Mother (Anita Hegh) arrives unexpectedly in the office. Thus we have the model.
The Mother is (unaccountably) blind and wet (it is raining). She has been ‘visited’ and spoken to by her daughter, who was killed in a tragic school shooting – she is dead. The Mother is a fundamentalist believer in God and does not want the model that the Architect has proposed as the memorial. She wants, and so does her daughter, she says, something that may inspire her to understanding her GOD and substantiate her belief, her faith- religious hocus-pocus (?) The Architect is a divorced career woman with a son, who lives with the ex-husband, the father – not her. She is ‘corporate’ and a non- believer. She wants “Simply to…to create a…a context Yes? A context for people to have their OWN experience of the site. We’re simply presenting people with the facts, the truth of what happened and allowing them” to have an experience, “a collective experience for the wider public. A context” – corporate, post-modernist gobbledegook (?) Hence we have the argument.
In the program notes, the author, Anthony Weigh talks of an reading a comment from of a grieving woman at the World Trade Centre site. He mentions Richard Dawkins and his book THE GOD DELUSION; Christopher Hitchens’ book GOD IS NOT GREAT: HOW RELIGION POISONS EVERYTHING and the writings of the philosopher/novelist Phillip Pullman and his railing against the ‘indoctrination’ of children by the churches of the world. This Argument, then, that transpires in the play, although it touches and begins to engage on big issues, becomes a very emotional one, one that results and concludes with a very ‘animal’, physical and violent wrestle to the ground for the possession of the model, between the two women. Emotions overtake the debate. Reason and logic dissipate (Attacking and wrestling a blind woman!), it is fairly glib. I feared that the obstinate window (a metaphor?), cause for some heartache for the Architect throughout the action of the play, would magically open at last-awful metaphor. The ending scene seemed gratuitous and a trite melodramatic – singing to the son over the telephone a song from the Wizard of OZ – this corporate woman has a heart too!!! Really.
But the evening in the theatre is enthralling because the performances by the actors, particularly Ms Dusseldorp, are vivid and passionate in their details and crafting. Ms Dusseldorp, at last, out from under, what I observed as the confining casting in the Sydney Actors Company, has a role that permits the full expression of her considerable talent. The shift and changes from second to second are immensely detailed and totally occupying. The speed with which she dares us to follow her through the dilemmas and desperation of her ‘argument’ are disarming of our objective assessment of the writing and absorbing to observe. In fact none of the actors give pause for disengagement with disbelief and when the hour and ten is over one is flushed with a satisfactory theatrical experience. An all to rare experience, in contemporary Sydney Theatre. Ms Hegh grows with righteous passion to an almost incandescent rage. Ms Horne is both correctly functional and comic, always, however, a real person – one came to worry about the waiting taxis with/for her.
Jacob Nash’s Set Design a black gloss set of oblongs with white edges is elegant and easy to be with. The Lighting Design from Verity Hampson is as excellent as ever - the weeping rain maybe a little over the top. Costumes by Bruce Mc Kinven apt, except the all important shared coat - ugly. Tim Maddock’s control is present .
So a good night in the theatre even if the playwriting is not as challenging as the premise and possibilities.