|Photo by by Christine Chahoud|
DROPPED, is an Australian play first premiered in 2013, at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Katy Warner, the Writer, was responding to the parliamentary decision to allow women to fight on the frontline. "The decision", says the Director, Anthony Skuse, in his program notes:
represented a significant shift; not only in terms of opportunities for women in the military, but more broadly, it challenged conventional notions of female roles.Two women, A (Deborah Galanos) and B (Olivia Rose) are waiting somewhere in an active war zone, passing the time waiting for something to happen.
The play is short, less than an hour, and has been mounted by this new company, The Goods Theatre Company, with some elegant panache: The Set Design, by Lisa Mimmocchi, of a tilted circular mound of 'desert soil' is convincing in its reality, and, oddly, in its 'beauty', in the space, assisted well, by the characteristically inventive and 'live', shifting Lighting Design, by Verity Hampson. The Composer, Aidan Roberts, creates an atmosphere, and the Sound Design (not acknowledged) is a very effective element of the experience.
The slow, silent opening gestures of the production, by Mr Skuse, promised much in its naturalistic daring. However, the play itself lacks traction - the writer claims an indebtedness to Samuel Beckett, especially to his WAITING FOR GODOT, and acknowledges DROPPED as a 'love letter' to him. Unfortunately, the verbal content doesn't measure up to that hero-worship. Nor does it really maintain our interest, with its supposed concern with the female presence being on active duty on the frontline. For, it does not clearly cover content that I felt could not just as interestingly be said, dealt with, by two male soldiers, and be, similarly, possibly challenging for an audience to contemplate - a soldier in combat, woman or man, holding a baby in her or his arms (alive or dead) in an active war zone is a provocative image, it being a highly charged 'human', rather than a particular, peculiar 'gender' dilemma.
The veracities of the word games, created by the writer, between the two soldiers were not truly acted convincingly. Ms Rose, who besides playing in the production was the instigator of the choice of play, was the most convincing and absorbing of the two, as B. While, Ms Galanos, as A, was 'pushing' and 'acting' - demonstrating - some of her text requirements, rather than authentically experiencing them. The 'fantasy game' dialogue between the two soldiers needed the acting to be terribly real for the contrast to the reality of the War Zone, to gain grip - to underline that it came from authentic boredom and a desperate grotesque need to maintain a 'sanity' in the realities of modern warfare (check out the film, JARHEAD - 2005, or the documentary RESTREPO - 2010).
This lack of reality was true of the production as well. There were behavioural activities, such as the taking off of the army boots, for instance, that did not have the verisimilitude of soldiers' behaviour in an active war zone; and that the machine guns, on view, were empty, plastic, weightless toys, easily, carelessly handled by the actors, also prevented the 'drama' of the situation to take hold - one could not, undistractedly, suspend disbelief in what we were watching.
This is a play for the zealous. It has a commendable statement of concern for an audience to observe, to learn about, but the production lacked real depth of experience to have us believe in it, in its present form. It fails to convince us of its lived truths and so fails to arrest our attention with its concerns. DROPPED is highly commendable, but only for its aspirations. GROUNDED, at the Seymour Centre this year, gave a more powerful insight into the possible human conflicts on being a woman in a war zone.