Wednesday, 15 September 1999

An Accidental Departure, Sep 15 1999

by Mammad Aidani
 at La Mama in association with Footscray Community Arts Centre
 until September 26, 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

It is not the role of theatre to make an audience feel stupid. It is certainly not the role of community theatre to mystify its audience. An Accidental Departure, by Mammad Aidani, does just that.

We are all meaning-makers by nature. Toss us a mad image, an irrational phrase or a fractured thought and we will make a story out of it. Watching this play, it is a struggle. Perhaps Aidani's other role as a poet interferes, making his text inappropriately fragmented for theatre. Whatever the cause, the script does not transfer from page to stage.

The problem is not simply that the text is non-linear, nor that it deals with esoteric issues: despair, dislocation, madness or miscommunication. The problem is the form in which these ideas are presented.

Seven actors appear and re-appear in pairs. A man and a woman (Carlos Sanchez, Domenica Ferraro) perch among cardboard packing boxes in the disarray of their marriage. "We all know what it is like to live in a box", says a man in a wheelchair who acts as an inner voice.

Another man (Craig MacDonald) struggles with the disarray of his mind while a veiled woman (Chi Vu) taunts him . Two young people (Tony Nguyen, Maria Papastamatopoulos) invade a house and talk. A boy eavesdrops on a woman who talks incessantly. Another woman (Susan Jones) tells of her past.

There is one scene which works dramatically. A man tries to impress, charm or love a woman who is uninterested. MacDonald gives the dialogue and the character life with a sensitive and funny performance.

The writing here maintains the fragmented texture of the rest of the play but it makes sense of character, relationship and themes of anguish and dislocation.

Director, David Everist enlivens these awkward, disconnected scenes and characters with  unusual entrances from under the sink, or down a rope through a roof trapdoor. He employs a surprising soundscape, (Susan Jones) a quirky design built around kettles and clay cups (Caroline Ho-Bich-Tuyen Dang).

Unfortunately, nothing can save this from being a very confusing evening at La Mama.

by Kate Herbert

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