Venue: Goodwood Institute Theatre, 166a Goodwood Road, Goodwood
Season: 7:30pm nightly to Sat 5th November, 11am Thurs 3rd and 2pm Sat 5th November
Duration: 2hrs incl interval
Tickets: adult $20/conc $15
Bookings: 8272 3036 http://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=14509
This double bill, by Polish writer Slawomir Mrożek (b. 1930), has Associate Artist, David Hirst, directing Striptease and Artistic Director, Glenn Hayden, directing Out at Sea. Both plays date from Mrożek's early period, published in 1961, his first play having been published in 1958. In 1963 he left Poland and moved to France. To escape the oppressive conditions in Poland.
Theatre of the Absurd is based on the concept that, in a Godless world, existence can have no meaning, communication fails, and logic gives way to irrationality. The plays tend to encompass two main themes: man's reaction to a world without meaning and/or man' reaction to finding himself controlled or threatened by some external force. Although well-known names in this genre, to English speakers, are Beckett, Ionesco, Pinter, Stoppard and Albee, Mrożek is equally important, if not as famous in Australia.
In the first play we find two people locked in a room together. They are not entirely sure how they got there, who has imprisoned them, or why. One is an intellectual, the other a political activist. They have vastly different points of view, the first wanting to do nothing and refusing to make decisions, Arguing that, although not making any choices, he is free as he has those choices available to him, the other wanting to take action, any action. A huge hand suddenly appears and forces them to remove some of their clothing. This happens at several more points during the play and both are required to conform to the demands of the hand. At last, it forces them to handcuff themselves together. They put on oversized dunce's caps as the set opens, they leave and a raft moves downstage, ready for the second piece that is to come after the interval.
Loki Reef and Olivia Fairweather play the intellectual and the activist, respectively, in a lively and very physical interpretation of the play, incorporating a lot of very stylised movement typical of middle European absurdist theatre, with Reef referencing the movements of John Cleese. It is clear that these two young actors, as well as those on the second play, have been given a good understanding of this difficult style of theatre by their directors and have translated that into some excellent performances.
In the second play three men are adrift on a raft and the food has run out. In the original script one is thin, one is average and the third is fat; and all three are hungry. In this production two are tall and one short. One of them is going to become lunch and the other two gang up on the intended victim, coming up with a string of spurious reasons and illogical arguments as to why the smallest should accept the fate of becoming lunch for the other two. Their attempts to decide who will be eaten are, supposedly fair and democratic, but the process is flawed and corrupt, which is, of course, what Mrożek is trying to tell us in his satirical look at the nature of power and its misuse. Eventually, the victim seems convinced that he should relinquish his life to the two slavering trenchermen, and he prepares himself as the raft move upstage, where the two characters from the first play appear, still in underwear and pointed hats, ready for the final bows.
Adrift at sea, the arrival and departure of a postman on a bicycle to deliver a telegram, and the later arrival of the butler of one of the antagonists, not only adds to the absurdity but gives Mr. Small a couple of brief reprieves due to the information that they impart.
Patrick Zoerner and Max Garcia-Underwood play the two prospective gourmandisers and Poppy Mee is the object of their taste buds' attention. The physical activity is cleverly arranged to match the text in this fast paced and engaging work, with strong performances from all three. Very tight comic timing is needed, and delivered, as well as precision with the complex choreography within the confines of the raft. Felix Alpers-Kneebone plays both the Postman and the Butler and, although brief, his appearances are as well performed as the major roles.
Kerry Reid's combination set neatly links the two plays, providing interesting backdrops for the exciting performances. This superb production closes on Saturday, so you will need to move quickly to catch a performance.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.