|Photo by Patrick Boland|
Collide and Griffin Independent present the World Premiere of GIRL IN TAN BOOTS by Tahli Corin at the SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross.
Some girls in an office, take 'pity' on one of their workmates, who has no apparent boyfriend, who wears tan boots, and send a post to an internet site in a throw away newspaper (aka Mx), an invitation for GIRL IN TAN BOOTS to meet an admirer, MAN IN GREY SUIT, on an innercity railway platform for a 'date'. The girl wearing her tan boots does so, and disappears. Disappears altogether. The police are called in and an investigation begins. An entanglement of guilt and embarrassment from the perpetrator/girls ensues. A mother grieves. A police investigator 'tumbles' down a metaphoric/magic realism Alice-like hole of her own and, ultimately, disappears, too!
GIRL IN TAN BOOTS is a new play by Tahli Corin. BUMMING WITH JANE, by Ms Corin was presented in 2008 Downstairs at Belvoir. That work, like this one, was also produced by Ms Corin. The lights come up on a bland beige carpeted room with pale duck egg blue walls with little furniture. Two doors, one to a clothes closet, the other to the hallway of this apartment (Set Design, Katren Wood). This set allows other locations to be endowed. The pragmatic lighting states by Tegan Lee helps this to happen.
A lugubrious woman, who we discover is a police detective, Detective Carapetis (Linden Wilkinson) in a lengthy dumbshow attempts to leave for work, but has to return several times, as she has forgotten 'stuff': for instance, to feed her (somebody's) cat, and another, oddly, ultimately, her present case files, which she drops, splaying them all over the floor. Whilst picking them up Carapetis becomes aware of us and begins a conversation, "stepping' through the fourth wall convention, to us, the audience, concerning her present case, and in "flash back action" tells this story, and the history and statistics in her area of speciality: Missing Persons. The play, 80 odd minutes later, closes with the detective, removing her cover clothing to reveal a mirrored-sequined top and in several flurries of coloured glitter disappears in front of our eyes.
We meet a quartet of young women, the girls from the office who have set this hoax into action: Katie (Madeline Jones), Lucy (Francesca Savige), Mandy (Zindzi Okenyo) and Antonietta (Sara Zwangobani) seemingly written, and certainly played as satiric comic caricatures and thumb-sketched types, of a generation of 'air heads' who obfuscate the police inquiry, who only, under pressure, falteringly, help to reveal the story that led to the disappearance.
Finally, we are introduced to the distressed 'mum' (Odile Le Clezio) of the 'disappeared', who plunges psychically into instinctive feelings of despair about the fate of her daughter. Even to the dreadful premonition of the girl's death.
Is this play a Midsommer Murder who-dunn-it?
Is this play wanting to engage with the Raymond Chandler tradition (THE BIG SLEEP) of the crime investigation being narrated directly to us, albeit, here, with a less than witty Philip Marlowe type gumshoe, succumbing to the same kind of world weariness?
Does this play wish to make us seriously aware of the statistics around unsolved citizen disappearance in our present society?
Is this play a satiric comedy about a certain Generation-Y sense of entitlement and their lack of acceptance to the consequences of their actions?
Is this a moving melodrama concerning the experience of the survivors around the loss of family members?
Is this play, a piece of sleight-of-hand magic realism (there are magic tricks subtly integrated in the action: Bruce Glen, Magic Consultant) with meta-physical overtones?
It could be all of this. It could be.
But the uneveness of tone in the writing, or, is it the failure to integrate all these elements into a satisfactory whole, by the writer and/or the director, can leave an audience, at the conclusion of the performance, more than a little unsatisfactorily, bewildered. I was. My companion was. We tried to de-brief each other about what the play was saying. Even, what happened? We agreed that the play was mildly entertaining, especially Ms Okenyo - a strikingly poised, delicious hoot; the acting was fairly attractive, especially Ms Le Clezio - cumulatively moving to real heartbreak; and although Susanna Dowling had managed to stage this work with competence: entrance/exits/use of props/placement of music etc., it seemed to lack directorial skill, and or, insight into how to organise and shape the performance of the text to give the audience a clean and clear comprehension of all those parts as a whole. Is it the writing that has failed us? Is it the directing that has failed us?
Simply, it was in bits and pieces, when we saw it. We tired to figure it out. I will conclude that I have been intrigued, enough, to really cogitate about this play and the production, before attempting to write. But am still confused.
I'll leave it to you to figure out.
P.S. It was, by the way, a pleasure to see six women strutting their stuff on stage. I only wish it had the satiric wit and political savvy and theatrical clarity, of say, the all female cast in the 1936 Clare Boothe Luce play, THE WOMEN (film version, 1939) or, Caryl Churchill's, 1982 TOP GIRLS. Beggars cannot be choosers, I guess.