Wednesday, 27 May 1998

Tear from A Glass Eye, May 27, 1998

Tear from A Glass Eye by Matt Cameron
Playbox Beckett Theatre until June 20, 1998
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Reviewed around. May 26, 1998

"I'm sorry. I seem to have lost myself," repeats Titus Petra, (Peter Houghton) the lead in Matt Cameron's new play, Tear from a Glass Eye.

He is a sketchy character who is notable for his inability to feel. His portrait is empty. He is invisible.

The text is riddled with metaphor to colour his emotional numbness. Titus 'lives in his head' then discovers he doesn't have one. He cannot tolerate anyone 'getting under his skin' then he loses layers of tissue after severe sunburn. He awaits the impossible tear from a glass eye.

Cameron has experimented with an interesting abstract form that incorporates both the comic and dramatic. Scenes are introduced with repeated projected titles such as "The Mood Swing" and Lament of the Numb" and the ominous "Black Sun, White Sky".

Simon Phillips directs the production seamlessly and stylishly, capturing the dark foreboding of the literal and psychological landscape. It is enhanced by a sterile metallic environment designed by Shaun Gurton, dramatic lighting by David Murray and evocative original music by Ian MacDonald which shifts effortlessly from the whimsical to the forbidding.

The cast of five are a strong ensemble although Houghton seems, at times, a little constrained by the text and the limits of such an unemotional character.

The narrative is non-naturalistic. Both ex-girlfriend Iris (Christen O'Leary) and his parents (Monica Maughan, Bob Hornery) believe Titus has escaped on a plane after he ruthlessly set Iris alight with turpentine and a match. She lives with horrendous burns and somehow intuits that Titus' plane is about to crash and feels responsible.

But he lives, having avoided the disaster by giving his seat - 42A- and boarding pass to a Mystery man who is known now as "Mr. Petra", (Alex Menglet). Eerie disassociated scenes take place in the desert where the amnesiac Titus wanders aimlessly and meets Petra, his alterego.

Cameron's writing has a lovely ironic twist and poetic, rhythmic quality which gives texture to the dialogue. However, the metaphorical narrative is never quite resolved or clarified. The mystery man is not the only "mystery wrapped in a riddle."

Although it begins well, the script, like Titus, loses its way in the second half. Themes of indifference, rejection, abandonment, violence, absolution and punishment remain unclear and under-developed. It lacks the complexity and fully developed characters of Cameron's last play, Footprints on Water.

Kate Herbert

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