Thursday, July 28, 2011
Drake The Amazing and La Dispute
Michaela Kalowski and Owl Farm in partnership with Darlinghurst Theatre Company Present DRAKE THE AMAZING and LA DISPUTE at the Darlinghurst Theatre(Supported by Arts Radar).
The program and publicity informs us that DRAKE THE AMAZING and LA DISPUTE by Andy Hyman are two plays: a double-bill. “Two sharp comedies exploring love, lust and transformation.” What we have, experientially, are 12 actors giving very good and enlivened performances directed very well, with a sense of meticulous detail by the director John Kachoyan. What we don’t have are two very interesting plays.
LA DISPUTE , which I recognised as an adaptation of Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux’s 1744 play, is here claimed to be written by Andy Hyman.
I had hoped it was to be the Marivaux, as I have found other productions of that play, curious but not satisfying, and thought this was to be a further interesting engagement. But, as there was no indication, not a word or mention, in the program of Marivaux at all, not even crediting the source of Mr Hyman’s inspiration, neither by the writer or director in their notes, I was indeed shocked at seeing this Marivaux play almost completely intact. Strange, indeed. Such bold appropriation of credit. I have a very recent memory of this play, presented at the Sydney Theatre Company a few years ago in Wharf 2, and of course read many times.
The Marivaux play reveals its age. I have come to the conclusion that the work is a dramatised, intellectual argument that has very little interest for us today in the theatre. In 1744, when most people could not read, but were interested in philosophical discussion, yes, it has a purpose, but today July/August 2011, probably not. In my experience, no. The form of the dramatisation, which Mr Hyman has ‘written’ is not at all engaging, and despite the uniformly good work of the actors and director is simply a didactic bore - faintly amusing. I especially enjoyed the work of Ben Wood and Stacey Duckworth.
DRAKE THE AMAZING by Andy Hyman is a very curious piece of theatre to be presented on the contemporary stage in Sydney. It is set in the vaudeville theatre milieu of the United States in 1911, and concerns the transformative influence of an artist and language. Alden Drake (Scott Sheridan) is employed by Neilson (Nicholas Papademetriou) as a monologist for the theatre and is coached, badgered by the stage manager, Claudette (Kate Skinner) until he reveals himself as a great artist when he brings to life a Robert Browning poem, PORPHYRIA’S LOVER (I am informed). He becomes the AMAZING DRAKE.
Whilst I enjoyed the work of all the actors, in this slight piece, especially the narrator figure, Astor, (Andrew Johnson), the triumph that Mr Sheridan is meant to reveal as Drake ,is not delivered. The verse speaking does not translate in performance as anything amazing or different. Mr Richard Burton, Mr John Gielgud, and surely this is what AMAZING should be?, Mr Sheridan is not able to replicate. The poem in this monologist recitation is not engaging or transformative in the least. It becomes long and imaginatively dull in its language usage – I switched off in the general state of technique of the performance of the language and objective of the monologue. Who cared? Only Claudette, and she was in love with him anyway, Cupid’s love blindness, perhaps?
And although Mr Hyman has skills, I felt that this work has a sense of adaptation too, from a short story or……? (I could not verify this suspicion). The dramaturgical techniques that Mr Hyman has employed in this play are clichéd and dull, the direct narrator is so boring a dramatic solution, for instance, to solve dramatic story telling that I could not recognise any reason for it to be presented in Sydney at all. The best reason would be because it was a comedy, anything to help distract us from the world as it stands at the moment, but the laughs were few and far between, really.
The curation of this material by the Darlinghurst Theatre Company, amiss again (check my reaction to the curation of JANE AUSTEN’S GUIDE TO PORNOGRAPHY… etc. in February).
The set by Adrienn Lord, and the costumes by Marissa Dale-Johnson for both sides of the double-bill were attractive and useful in creating the world of the plays and certainly the hand of control and insight in the acting technique needed for this kind of work, made me curious to see Mr Kachoyan’s directorial work again, just with better and more cogent material.