Wednesday, 12 February 1997

New Short Works, Feb 12, 1997

St Kilda Writers' Festival
Theatreworks 12-16 Feb, 1997
When the Day is Done by Daniel Lillford; Valediction by Graham Henderson;
Diplomacy on Coconut Island by Adam May; Poison Heart by Johann McIntyre
Reviewed by Kate Herbert on Feb 12, 1997

How short is a short work? Twenty, thirty minutes tops? A couple of the "New Short Works" in the St. Kilda Writers' Festival program were forty and sixty minutes long. This did not make them bad, it simply made the program of four plays too long.

The two pieces in the first half were more successful than the second pair. Graham Henderson's poignant poem of despair, Valediction, is performed with great sensitivity by Ian Scott and subtly directed by Wayne Macauley.

Scott is alone on stage for nearly an hour with a very dense, often untheatrical text that challenges the attention span of both actor and audience. The suicidal character's farewell words are recorded on cassette as he speaks in the style of Beckett's Krapp's Last Tapes.

Daniel Lillford's 15-minute piece sparkles with witty dialogue, vivid characters, a satisfying denouement and ending and is crisply directed by Lillford. In When the Day is Done, Christopher Davis and Greg Saunders play two Belfast childhood pals, one of whom is still a foot soldier for the IRA Cause.

Their isolated moment together takes a nasty turn and reveals the horror of the personal crashing into the political. Think of Michael Collins. Saunders' performance is the highlight of the evening.

Both pieces in the second half had serious flaws. Diplomacy on Coconut Island by Adam May confuses Absurdism with silliness and incomprehensibility. It simply made no sense and its final statement said it all, "I don't expect people like you to understand."

Equally problematic but more entertaining for the audience, was Johann McIntyre's gothic grotesquery, Poison Heart. It is riddled with high campery. A foppish Lord (Brandon Ah Chong) who resembles Prince minces about plotting to poison his wife who, in turn plots to poison him. It uses a florid blend of modernisms and pseudo-Elizabethan language that only occasionally works. It is over-written, lacks content and the outcome is crass and celebrates Sado-Masochism in a discomfiting way. 

It is a pity that fifty per-cent of a Writers' Festival program fell so short of the mark.

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