|Photo by Vanessa Wright|
A GIRL WITH SUN IN HER EYES by American playwright, Josh Rollins is a late-night show at the Old Fitz. This is another Chicago corrupt cop plot on the Old Fitz stage, with the usual Old Fitz macho testosterone emphasis that has become a decidedly boring habit, and signature of the work in this space, with very few exceptions, over the past year, since Red Line Productions, in a flurry of optimism, from the artists of Sydney, have taken charge.
Now this would not be such a calamity if this play were better - but it is not quite a d-e-f-grade cop noir, that if it were on television would be flicked off after the first five minutes (you wouldn't even wait for a commercial), and if it were a film, it may have, just may have, gone straight to DVD, for $1.99 (and not pulped) - and to the very bottom of a Christmas stocking, and then for someone you may not really have liked. The play's recipe for success is:
A. Characters we have all met many, many times before - including a put-upon female victim cop/prostitute decoy (Kate Williams); an ambitious moralising female cop coming out from under a thwarted love affair (Jai Paynter); a four-five-line hard boiled female lawyer and a non-speaking waitress in apron, (a double 'opportunity', for Gabrielle Rogers).
B. A plot situation, achingly over familiar - drugs (of course), sex (Oh, really?), police corruption and violence (Martin Crewes), adulterous husband (Jeremy Waters), fucked-up race relations epitomised in a revenge African-American persona (Ezekiel Simat).
C. Add an energy hijinx of acting style conjured by Andrew Henry, the Director, which is what we might come to call in a cliche reference to this theatre's house style in times to come up in the front bar of the pub: "Old Fitzian".
The only interest in this play, and I am desperately searching for one, is perhaps, the shuffling of the time shifts in the presented action - Nah, cliche, too. And, to do that Mr Rollins has had to write a multiplicity of scene changes (TV screenplay?) that seem to be endless, and sadly, a serious obstacle for committed concentration from the audience - Too true, I can assure you.
Mr Henry, has not been able to draw complex performances from his actors, mostly, seemingly, only able to move them about the space (the set of the main show DEAD CENTRE / SEA WALL) so that they have elected and are permitted to overplay (shout), or just plain flounder (bump into the furniture) with what the writer has given them. Since all the characters in the writing, appear to be unsophisticated surface observations with cliche function, the actors then, to make this work succeed beyond the obvious: "Do what Mr Rollins says, Say what Mr Rollins says", needed some more time with the Director to 'invent' psychological 'back stories' and a 'history' to give the audience at least an 'under-text' for them to endow, to make the journey at all interesting. He, and they haven't done it, well, not that it can be read - No. The predictiveness of it all is teeth-grindingly horrible. Jeremy Waters, is the best of them all, and tries to bring it to 'life', but there is no-one else to 'play' with, and his task becomes more and more difficult to sustain - his work is, literally, heroic.
The best of this late night show that began sometime after 9 pm and didn't finish until 10.30 pm or so, and I am being sincere now, is the inventive scene change lighting of pulsing coloured 'fluro-tubes' hung on the back wall of the set by Alexander Berlage, and the vivid and exciting Sound Design by Nate Edmondson. But a Sound and Light show, even one has good as this one, is not a tantalising enough reason to see this production - there are a lot of scene changes, and the fluro-patterns have a limit to their flashing options.
So, go, if you want.
Mind you, DEAD CENTRE / SEA WALL is worth catching. Go.
P.S. I notice that Mr Rollins is from Chicago where Mr Henry studied (with Steppenwolf), and this play, in 2011, had its premiere. Is that a coincidence as to why someone thought A GIRL WITH SUN IN HER EYES was worth stage time in Sydney?