Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Accoding to Otto

Tunks Productions presents the world premiere of ACCORDING TO OTTO, by Wayne Tunks at The, Depot Theatre, Addison Rd Marrickville. 14 -24 February.

ACCORDING TO OTTO, is a new Australian play by Wayne Tunks. He is a prolific writer of plays. He has another work premiering at The Depot Theatre in June: THINGS NOT TO DO AFTER A BREAKUP. ACCORDING TO OTTO has been written as part of the 2018 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, 2018.

Otto Brooks (Jasper Musgrave), from the stage greets us with a winning but youthful smile, and tells us of the consequences of his decision to 'come out' on his 16th birthday to his family and, subsequently, to his schoolmates.

According to Otto his family are a 'boring ' suburban collective in a 'boring' ordinary suburb - 'blah, blah, blah'. Here's how the 'coming out' goes: Dad, Gavin (Wayne Tunks), is surprised but supportive; Mum, Corrine (Jacinta Moses), in a state of shock, is undecided and on the hostile side; older sister, Ava (Tasha O'Brien), is 'cool' and acts as a friendly sounding board; disabled grandma, Lesley (Felicity Burke) - recovering, apparently, from a stroke - always suspected Otto's true nature and is supportive in her limited way for her favourite grandchild.

However, according to Otto the scary, big issue is how his best mate, Max (Brendan Paul), on whom he has a crush, is going to react. They are always hanging-out together, but there has never been any conversation about sexuality at all, even despite the taunting of the school bully, Brady (Cooper Mortlock), who relentlessly insinuates otherwise.

In a direct address mode to the audience Otto recreates real and fantasy interactions with all the family and other periphery characters, of his world, who are variously impersonated by Eliza Duncan and Andrew Wang, to keep us up to speed with his dilemma.

The writing is lightweight and gently winning in its comic cliches and recognisable character tropes. It is no surprise, to read in the program notes, that part of Mr Tunks experience has been that of a 'storyliner at NEIGHBOURS' - this work has the simple and efficient appeal of early-night television. I sometimes wished that Otto 'told' us less and 'showed' us more - it began to feel, sometimes, too much like a tiresome monologue.

The company of actors, when brought into the action, in the writing, are well cast and deftly confident with the little material they are given - they all have a happy charm with the relatively undemanding demands of the writing. Mr Musgrave is especially pleasing with the mighty task of the never-shut-up Otto, that Mr Tunks has created.

Mr Tunks has taken on four responsibilities with ACCORDING TO OTTO: that of Producer, Writer, Actor and Director. I wonder if this production would have benefited from a Director who could have sat outside the playing and employed a more rigorous Directorial 'musical' ear for the rhythmic flow of the playwriting, for this production's comic timing was too often laboriously slow and the 'inner monologue' gear changes became interminably frozen and empty (let alone the physically clumsy scene changes - and there were many) - giving us too much time to disengage, so that the 'gossamer' fragility of the writing conceit teetered dangerously into revealing itself.

No matter what kind of writing-genre we are witnessing, it is always "In the Timing", and never more so than in this kind of boulevard flimsiness. A fleeting speed would have hustled us along and have the 'sweetness' of it all, obfuscate, the obviousness of it all. Though, not to be churlish, I should report my audience were happy all the way with the storytelling. And it was a mid-week 'Full House. Something was working. I, sympathetically sat there with them, and just wished it were faster so that I could have stayed on board with the performance more happily.

In the past week we have met two 16 year old Australian boys discovering their 'gayness' on our Sydney Stages. Shane, of STRANGERS IN BETWEEN, and Otto Brooks, in ACCORDING TO OTTO. One is toughly realistic, the other a suburban fantasy. Both, probably, legitimate stories. They are in character chalk and cheese. Choose your 'food' according to your theatrical needs.

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