Saturday, 18 October 1997

Features of Blown Youth by Raimondo Cortese , Oct 18, 1997

Features of Blown Youth by Raimondo Cortese
By Ranters Theatre
 Economiser until Nov 1, 1997
Reviewed by KH around Oct 17, 1997

Being cool is a painful dead-end. Raimondo Cortese's play, Features of Blown Youth, highlights the tragedy of a group of young people leading pointless lives.

We sit voyeuristically peering at the shattered existences of these characters most of whom live in a huge, inner-city grubby dive. They are all aimless, they all abuse themselves and each other in turn and each is helplessly infatuated with another.

Dove (Tess Masters) is an insecure junkie stripper with romantic ideals and a new bimbo, Rot (Torquil Neilson). Isabel, a jaded student, is hooked on Dove. Guido (Arthur Angel) is like Vivian from The Young Ones. He is violent, offensive and wildly jealous of about his peppy dope-head girlfriend, Syv (Beth Buchanan). Harriet, the pseudo-artist, is smitten with Oron (Patrick Moffatt) who is by far the most interesting character.

Moffatt is consistently exceptional as the directionless intellectual who hovers, patronises and sharpens his wits on others' ignorance.  Oron's inability to harness the power of his mind is his downfall. He remains in low gear.

Cortese has a great facility for swift dialogue and well-observed characters. He satirises the silliness of half-baked philosophy and floods with harsh light the self- indulgence of those who think being decadent and screwed up is interesting. One wonders though, late in the second half, whether an audience can be shocked any more.

Director, Adriano Cortese keeps the pace up and scenes move smoothly between rooms that have a grungy, hyper-real design by Dan Potra. The whole is accompanied by unobtrusively effective music by Kim Salmon.

The plot pivots in an excellent scene at the end of the first half when Strawberry, the new spivvy landlord and pimp arrives and tips the delicate balance of their lives. The outcomes of this intrusion are myriad and to some degree unexpected.

The young people may have thought their lives were interestingly decadent but Strawberry is the real thing: dangerous, dissolute and exploitative. These confused, deceived people are fair game for one so unscrupulous.

The question is whether every piece of theatre about youth must be centred on the dank, bleak existential dilemmas of an inner-urban crisis ridden youth. Grunge theatre is all we are getting - even if this is a good version of it.


Raised by Wolves by Handspan Theatre, Oct 18, 1997

Raised by Wolves by Handspan Theatre
Victoria Dock Shed 14 until Oct 21, 1997
Reviewed by KH around 17 Oct, 1997

There is a moment when we realise we have turned into our parents. Mine was during Raised by Wolves when my uppermost thought was, "TURN DOWN THE MUSIC! MY EARS ARE BLEEDING!"

Handspan and director David Bell have collaborated with popular band Regurgitator in this project that is essentially a rave party plus some visual theatre. There are a few extraordinary elements. The first is the location in a disused shed at Victoria Dock under a full moon.

Inside, hordes of mainly very young people milled about anticipating where the action might begin. Banks of video screens, coke machines and scaffolding broke up the space. Shipping containers acted as platforms for puppeteers, actors and the live band. Huge cherry-pickers decked with fluorescent lights, prowled the space.

 The walls are chequered with more multi-coloured fluoro tubes which form the words "LIVE' then later "DIE". At one end of the shed a huge demon head with spinning eyes screamed at us. At the other, a flaming Picasso portrait burned.

Ben Cobham's lighting design and the giant cockroach puppets were the highlights. As spectacle, however, this performance misses the mark. It draws on a style popular in Europe with La Fura del Baus (Spain) and Titanick (Germany) but, whereas these companies draw together disparate images, text and sound to create a cohesive whole, Raised by Wolves is dissonant and chaotic.

Any dialogue that remains audible over the ear-smashing noise level is unintelligible or puerile. Actors Lee Russell, Megan Cameron and Justin Ratcliffe, wander about aimlessly, wrapped in plastic, attacked by cockroaches or as post-holocaust derelicts.
The curtains and metal screens could have created some interesting snatches of physical imagery but without context, content or thematic links, the whole deteriorates into hysterical ravings, meaningless wanderings and NOISE.

The very young in the crowd seemed to enjoy the dancing and the unpredictability of the piece so perhaps it is a matter of taste or of age. It is a pity because Handspan has done some spectacular work over the years.ˆ


Wednesday, 15 October 1997

Unidentified Human Remains, Oct 15, 1997

Unidentified Human Remains (and the True Nature of Love) by Brad Fraser
 Vortical Theatre Athenaeum 2 until Nov 23, 1997
Reviewed by KH around Oct 15, 1997

A well-written script can rise like a phoenix from even a mediocre production. Such is the case with Canadian playwright Brad Fraser's play, ˇ

Fraser has experimented with style, form and content in this witty and disturbing play. The narrative has several threads that finally weave together a range of young characters: some eccentric, others ordinary, one simply psychotic but all narcissistic and dissatisfied with their lives.

His language is raw and earthy and his dialogue hilarious. As a gay writer his intention is obviously to dispel some of the myths about homosexuality and he does so through his narrative and through his often camp humour. "Hi! I'm homo!" quips David. "'Some people are freaked out by gays.' 'Well some people like polyesterˆ'", says Candy.

David, the actor-waiter, is gay and promiscuous. His roommate, Candy, is anorexic, driven and lonely. His oldest friend, Bernie, is married and a philanderer. David's co-worker, Kane is sexually confused and adoring. Jerri, the lesbian, loves Candy. Candy loves out-of-towner, Robert. Benita is a psychic hooker. Everybody loves either Candy or David.

The adolescent social and sexual antics of these Generation X'ers seems trivial in the face of the spate of gruesome rape-murders which are terrifying the country town of Edmonton. It becomes evident that the psychotic could be any one of a number of these fun-lovers.

Fraser uses swift, snappy ad-break scenes, snapshots of characters and clipped, overlaid, abstracted dialogue to provide a series of images that echo the fractured lives of the characters and create an intense and nervous atmosphere.

Vortical Productions, directed by Darren Markey, made a courageous choice but have staged a clumsy version of Fraser's clever play. Much of the danger is lost and the performances are generally colourless. The emotional layering and complexity of structure are lost in the inexperienced and flat delivery, pedestrian direction and clunky design.

They do, however, hit some of the humour of Fraser's writing. This is a very funny play. It's exploration of the vagaries of relationships and the parallels between gay and straight lives are impeccably observed. Benita's obsession with childhood horror urban myths is highlighted by the real horrors in the community.