Thursday, 19 August 1999
Clive Potter: Poet, Aug 19, 1999
by Anthony Breslin
at Theatreworks until September 5, 1999
It is nothing short of courageous to write, direct, design and perform one's first play. "Courageous" is here intended in the inverted Sir Humphrey Appleby sense.
Visual artist, Anthony Breslin, has written a script that deals with grief, death, creative failure, sexual 'coming out' and suicide: all very dense and emotive issues.
Clive Potter: Poet is about a young man, who is played, for some reason, by a young woman (Ruth Blakely). Clive's father has suicided, his publisher, (Don Bridges) ignores his poetry and he is bemused and confused by his emerging sexual preference.
At two and a half hours, the play is about an hour too long. It needs some ruthless editing and some dramaturgical advice. There are, however, some effective and affecting moments such as Clive's coming out phone call to his mother.
Much of the rest of the play comprises either overly long monologues from Clive, intermittently comic sketches with broad clown characters, or awkwardly emotional dialogues between mum (Roberta Connelly) and Clive or Clive and his elusive lover, Night (Anthony Breslin). There is also a mime artist on stage (Paul Roberts OK) consistently, evidently forcing Clive's fate.
The monologues are repetitive, dialogues with mum are written in poor rhyme and the scenes with Night are riddled with pedestrian philosophy.
These styles do not form a cohesive whole in this play that takes far too long to get to its point. It lacks dramatic tension or dramatic action.
After 90 minutes, when Clive finally confronts his smarmy boss (Alan King) and the publisher, the narrative looks more promising but this is followed by a drawn out suicide attempt which dissipates the energy.
The actors work hard in a play which struggles to find its style. Blakely performs quite well with such weighty text and Bridges, King and Mark Wilson provide sound comic relief. Particularly good was Connelly as mother.
Breslin's dartboard/chessboard design is very clever and elaborate but does not serve the text. It is not aided by a clumsy lighting design (Susanne Kean).
This hero's journey could do with a clearer map. It is very difficult to sit through, especially in a very under-heated Theatreworks.
By Kate Herbert