Monday, December 4, 2017

Virgins and Cowboys

Photo by Ashley de Prazer

Motherboard Productions and Griffin Independent present, VIRGINS AND COWBOYS, by Morgan Rose, at the SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross. 30 November - 16 December.

VIRGINS AND COWBOYS, is a new Australian play by Morgan Rose. This production was first presented in Melbourne from the Theatre Works season - the original cast in situ.

In the first section of this play three 'Cowboys' are sitting, ostensibly - since they seem to be talking directly to us, as well - around a table with some beers in their suburban home and are talking to Sam (Kieran Law) about his on-line conversations with two Virgins: Lane, who is 19 (Penny Harpham), and Steph, who is 29 (Katrina Cornwell), giving him advice, warnings, and whatever. All these people seem to be suffering from fear of rejection and a low self-esteem - is it a cultural commonality? We, later, witness some of these on-line conversations, and then meet them - Sam with Lane and Steph -  both on separate first dates with Sam. Both dates are an awkward interaction in the flesh - is it the norm for the internet generation?

One of the Cowboys, Dale (George Lingard), eventually scores Steph and while 'Cowboy' Kieran (James Deeth) eventually finds self discovery is his thing, 'Cowboy' Sam persists with young Lane.

This very interesting, funny play, in its second scene, spins out into the random consequences of these  Virgins and Cowboys with their personal 'philosophies'/needs, having been urged by their ambitions - pathetic, ordinary, or otherwise - to the black smoky void of the possibilities of the unravelling of their consequent lives in an unpredictable universe.

Sex, exercise, well meaning 'greenie' vigilance, pregnancy and death are the travails for Steph and Dale. Self exploration/knowledge in India and South America, with the 'hip' indulgences, in between, of the fads of the gym, yoga and even pilates, gives or not, Kieran a kind of validation for his existence. While Sam negotiates some understanding with the growth to maturity of Lane in a slow, slow game of 'beach-ball catch and bounce' in their pathetic journey.

Ultimately, the writer, Morgan Rose, and the Director, Dave Sleswick, has Sam standing on the stage alone - the others having exited into the 'wings' - surrounded by the vapours of the universe in a warm light, seemingly staring into an abyss and contemplating the life force that we are biologically geared for by nature to enact. We have come into the world alone and we will go out of this world alone, are they saying? Life, says one of the German philosophers, is that spark between one void and another. Is it will or fate that shapes our destinies?

This is a very engaging play and is quite thrilling in its theatrical language exploits - verbal and physical. Most unusual - a little touch of Lally Katz in the night, but very different. The play beautifully observes the world of a certain 'generational' experience it seems - much like the world I had seen the other night in Kate Tempest's WASTED, with less overt poetic versification - and amusingly reduces it to gentle pin-pricks of satire that are SO spot-on, and then glancing into the deep and eternal contemplation of what is life for and is it worth it all with its basic ordinary animal urges for sex. How civilised are we, really? How different from the other animal species, are we? What a bugger that we have the brain capacity to imagine and reason.

All the Design elements are economic and thoughtfully 'clever', Set and Costume, by Yvette Turnbull, with sympathetic and detailed Lighting, by Lisa Mibus - it all looks good - with a very cogent and supportive contribution from the Sound Design of Liam Burton. It is all of a whole.

The performances seem to have evolved from the inspiration of the text and fits each of the ensemble relaxedly, comfortably, supported I suspect from some physical and game-playing improvisational exercises which produces a particular stylistic language of non-naturalistic communication. It is intriguing - surreal - and, ultimately, rewarding. I wished, however, the actors were not so naturalistic in energy, for there was a kind of uniform out-of-body sameness that flattened the energy of the writer's enquiries. I wondered what the individualistic super-presence of each of the actors would have done to the experience of this wide-ranging investigation into the meaning of our lives - ordinary though they appear. What would have the heightened energy of each artist in a life or death performance - especially as the material is so urgent - given to the audience - I reckon a more breathlessness to face the reality of what is it all for?

I notice that Ms Morgan's latest play: "desert, 6.29pm", has just opened to excited acknowledgement in the Red Stitch season In Melbourne. I'd be keen to see where she is going.

VIRGINS AND COWBOYS, then, I found a stimulating and satisfying time in the SBW Theatre. If you are up for an esoteric evening of perhaps, befuddlement, then go. Re-assuredly go, but with all your sensors alert - give in and enjoy.

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