|Photograph by Helen White|
REMEMBERING PIRATES is a new work by Christopher Harley, who gave us BLOOD BANK at the Ensemble Theatre late last year.
The 'core' of the dramatics of this new play is similar to the last one by Mr Harley. Two brothers: one of them lost (Michael), the other (John) subsequently traumatised. (In BLOOD BANK, it was Justin that was lost and Michael traumatised). In this instance we also have a sister, Wendy and the haunting playtime of their childhood game of Peter Pan and the Pirates, confusedly fused to their present day lives, as a hidden truth of accident and a crime surfaces to climax.
The play is only 50 minutes long and is tantalisingly, moodily managed by Director, Iain Sinclair. The design by Alicia Clements features a back wall with two doors at either end of a long oblong curtained window that rustles and flutters with a 'wind', it, suggestively lit for dramatic tension by Daniel Barber, with a Sound Composition and vocal Design atmospherically creating a 'real' past world of news bulletins concerning a lost child, with the magic music of the eerie otherworld of imagination, by Nate Edmondson.
The central performance of the disturbed John is eruditely played by Simon London (an actor of some impact: EDWARD II and STRAIGHT), ably supported by Emma Palmer. Stephen Multari does what he can with an underdeveloped role (that mostly attempts to justify the appearance of a gun into the action), while Robert Alexander given the responsibility of a father figure suffering from the onset of 'dementia' does well with a character that in the plotting of this work seems to be unnecessary. Young Fraser Crane needs more nuance and a closer Directorial hand with his dialogue offers.
The imaginative concept of this work and its offerings of the breakdown of mind (Ayckbourn's 1985, WOMAN IN MIND could be useful as a guide) is extremely promising but its execution as a finished play is far from satisfactory. Not all the characters have been fully developed beyond function, and the credibility that the young sister could drag a body and dump it in a nearby lake, forever undetected, is more than mildly preposterous, particularly as we know of a very public police search that we hear on the radio soundtrack throughout the play - I would of thought the lake would have been 'dragged' for a body just as a routine of investigation and found! (I was reminded of the generating incident in JASPER JONES, both novel and play, and had the same loss of belief.)
Says Mr Sinclair in his program notes:
The magic in Christopher Harley's writing is elusive but beautiful. When you read the script dry, something makes sense in your heart as you are reading it then the moment you disassemble it, it becomes impossible to reassemble according to dramaturgical laws.It is a statement that is too true. No matter the heart felt 'beauty'of the play's conception/writing, it can't be reassembled in the pragmatics of the 'dramaturgical laws'. The text needs more work. Many, many more drafts. The play was announced, programmed, a year ago, and so one must believe that it has had 'development,' since then, surely? Or, not?
Whether the magical elements are 'beautiful' enough to overcome the dramaturgical laws (flaws) that Mr Sinclair talks of will be what the audience will have to wrestle with while watching this production.
Is there a paucity of good Australian playwriting? Mentioned in the thank you list in the program, (besides some actors/directors and designers) are: Jane Bodie, Tim Roseman, University of Sydney's Department of Performance Studies and Playwriting Australia, and we must include the Director of this production, Iain Sinclair, who is 'a Director/Translator and Dramaturg' - all involved, directly with the development of new Australian playwriting. Whatsagoing on? So much support, so little to show for it in constructive dramaturgical logics?
Edward Albee passed away last week. Where is his near likeness in achievement in the Australian canon of playwriting? I wish.
I merely ask for information. There seems to be so much 'industry' available in encouraging new Australian writing, but there is so little consistent quality for us who buy the tickets!