Tuesday, 29 June 1999

Carboni, 29 June 1999

Carboni (or The Consequences of Some Pirates Wanting on Quarter Deck a Rebellion)
by John Romeril La Mama at the Courthouse until July 10, 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

It is chastening that Carboni, which is the only truly political Australian play in town, was written in 1979. Playwright, John Romeril, is almost the last of our political playwrights. He is committed to rabble rousing, lefty shows with funny, musical content.

Romeril took the text for his monodrama directly from Raffaello Carboni's original work, The Eureka Stockade, written in 1855. Carboni was an Italian immigrant with a clever, poetic turn of phrase, an observant eye and a revolutionary's heart. His time on the Ballarat goldfields was one of the most eventful and bloody in our history since British settlement.

Adam Cass, directed by Graeme Dale, plays Carboni as an articulate, worldy Italian who is appalled by the events in Ballarat in the 1850's.

The style of the script is " didactic" theatre in the best sense of the word. It is informational and  "alienates" in the manner of German playwright Bertolt Brecht, by forcing us to observe and form opinions.

The music is composed by pianist, Anthony Pateras, and played with Robin Fox on drums and Adele Conlin on violin. It has the clang of Eastern European folk traditions and echoes Brecht's Mahagonny. George Dreyfuss wrote some of the original score for the 1979 production.

The direction does not do justice to Romeril's script nor to Carboni's story. It relies too heavily on broad posturing, which is a poor replica of Brecht's "Gest": gestural theatre. The shadow images, inside clunky screens plumped centre-stage, are only partially visible to side seats.

The music is interesting but so loud, particularly the drums, that Cass is incomprehensible for large sections of the text in spite of his big voice.

It requires great skill to carry a solo show and Cass gives a committed although limited performance. He is mannered, lacks depth and his character and scene transitions are clumsy. He is more effective in the latter half when the focus is on Bakery Hill, the massacre and the ensuing court cases for High Treason. Carboni's graphic detail and emotional language are compelling here.

After hearign his account of Bakery Hill, it is no wonder Carboni returned to Italy to soldier for Garibaldi.

By Kate Herbert

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