Monday, October 15, 2012

Between Two Waves

 Rachel Gordon, Ian Meadows & Ash Ricardo - Photo by Brett Boardman

Griffin Theatre Company presents the World Premiere of BETWEEN TWO WAVES by Ian Meadows at the SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross.

A passionate Climate Studies scientist, Daniel (Ian Meadows) takes a role in a government department in an attempt to help persuade the same government policy makers to be more aware and more realistic about the probable state of the world's climate future, both near,and far, in time:
The carbon dioxide traps the heat. When the temperature rises two degrees we lose the Arctic sea ice, then West Antarctica, then the Greenland ice sheet. Without the ice the earth is less white so it can't reflect the sun. The darker oceans absorb more heat and so the melting increases again, until the permafrost goes too,releasing all the other gases that it's frozen for millions of years… Drinking water is contaminated, crops fail worldwide and then, just as resources plummet, there's an extra two billion to take care of. .... There's a tipping point where it becomes impossible to reverse. We said it would be here in five years. Ten years ago. And now it's too late.
This passionate speech comes from a 30 year old Daniel, traumatised by family tragedy, the death (suicide?) of his sister, fractious rivalry with his father, and a storm flooding his home and professional property, and 'freaking out' about the moral responsibility of bringing a child into existence, with his girlfriend Fiona (Ash Ricardo). Can I bring life into a doomed  world scenario?

This new Australian play is an interesting experience. There is a love story of some intelligent wit and suitable romance, not an unusual concern for an Australian play. That the romance is a sugar coating for the big social and political dilemmas of Daniel's world is, contemporaneously, unusual. Not since, perhaps, early Stephen Sewell and his political thrillers have we had such weaving: Romantic love and politics! Mr Meadows is not as insightfully complicated as Mr Sewell, which may be a relief for some of us with memories of long nights in the theatre, and, so, his simplicity is most welcome.  BETWEEN TWO WAVES is not quite as dense as Mr Sewell's political interests and paranoia, as say in : THE FATHER WE LOVED ON A BEACH BY THE SEA (1978) or DREAMS IN AN EMPTY CITY (1986).

And, there are, however, I think, problems of clear character writing and function, dramaturgically, in the finished text which could be further sorted. I enjoyed the appearance of the insurance adjuster, Glenelle (Rachel Gordon) but still am a little befuddled, about what her function is in the play structure - more clarity! - does it even need to be a woman?! I read the play, honing it, for that purpose. No real answer. I also felt that Jimmy (Chum Ehelepola), Daniel's fellow climatologist and boss (?) was, in the writing, a little too obviously functionary, with not enough depth to character. Should Mr Meadows be acting in , as well writing  this first showing of the play? His outside eye might have been clearer to the play's needs.

The experience of the performance, on the other hand, was really highly enjoyable and I was less hassled about the writing while watching. The science is simple to absorb and is broad enough for me accept as true. The romance between Daniel and Fiona is brusque, funny and very contemporary and had a ring of knowledge of the characters as real sparing partners, in love. Truth of a hip observation of a smart couple resonated  - a feeling of a first hand acquaintance/observation.

Mr Meadows is an actor of ease and a likable personal quality, combined with great skill and clarity of action, that one is always excited, in the anticipation, of catching him at work. His work is always so believable and gives the appearance of effortlessness. Ms Ricardo, who gave a gem of a performance in the STC LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES earlier this year, reveals in this bigger opportunity, a sense of detailed character study with an instrument that has the dexterity to shift, on an instant from one tone, mood, to another, with great confidence and accuracy. Ms Ricardo takes breathlessly, daring risks in what looks like improvised seconds of action, but are cleverly disguised determinants (check out THE PIGEONS, as a reference to her evolving work). Fiona is witty, clever, compassionate and femininely human, vulnerable - with a flint of steel that she is willing to bring to the fore when needed. With Daniel that 'nerdy scientist' , Fiona finds it is often a necessary 'weapon'. These two actors, together, in their scenes have a real simpatico and they are as fun to watch as that other couple down at the STC, at present, in SEX WITH STRANGERS: Jacqueline McKenzie and Ryan Corr. There is a frisson of the friendly battle between the sexes that is fun and surprising. Good writing and acting, here.

Ms Gordon, as Grenelle, does not have the same clear function of action for her character, but in performance is in command and complex with many off stage personas to create and deal with. Mr Ehelepola does what he can without much help from the writer. A tight quartet serving and telling the story with an ensemble spirit.

Sam Strong has encouraged the action of the play inside a very elegant design solution by David Fleischer (there is, as well, a surprise coup de theatre incorporated). It looks contemporarily modish, and is pleasing architecturally, but, I wondered, when reading the text, whether the minimalistic decisions on props and furniture, in the actual performance of the show, really supported the clarity of the information necessary to keep the audience abreast of what was happening and where and, especially, when it was, emotionally - clues for us to read. Certainly, the stage descriptions in the published text clarified many a moment for me, afterwards. This is a case when more might be better. The video images are effective, projected onto the white floor and lowered roof, as a generalised statement in the theatre, quite dramatic if not particularly readable, and once again I was surprised about how pertinent the images intimated by the writer in the text were to the action of the story. It might be a case of the director and designer knowing what is not there and not seeing the production with the eyes of the first time viewer. The effect is theatrical but not informative. Matthew Marshall's lighting is arresting in its atmospheric and time affect indications.

BETWEEN TWO WAVES is a fresh and interesting work, attempting to debate vital social issues within a very contemporary rom/com. I recommend it.

Two Australian actors writing for the theatre: Toby Schmitz and Ian Meadows. Whilst Mr Schmitz's play I WANT TO SLEEP WITH TOM STOPPARD had all the right oomph of the romantic comedy - it was in content, essentially trivial. Mr Meadows has that titillating oomph as well, but BETWEEN TWO WAVES, has deeper concerns. I may like it more. Do go, see what you think.

P.S. THE HERETIC by Richard Beane, seen last year at the Melbourne Theatre Company, is an interesting curiosity, companion piece, to this work.

1 comment:

sydneytheatrefestival said...

This is a great review of 'BETWEEN TWO WAVES' presented by Griffin Theatre Company. Your description of not only the play itself is in itself not just merely poignant but also provides us, the viewer, with a clear idea of the performance. When reviewing a theatrical work within Sydney, what or whom are some of your favourite companies that you could see performing within a sydney theatre festival?