Thursday, 10 February 2000

Satellite of Love, Feb 10, 2000

 by Ross Mueller
at Trades Hall  until February 26, 2000
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The joys of camping are a mystery to me. There you are, incarcerated in a tiny, steamy, plastic teepee: no room to move, no air to breathe, a long sprint to the loo, loud, drunken neighbours, mud when it rains, mozzies when it's hot. Where's the fun in that? Give me hot running water and a comfy bed any day.

Satellite of Love is close to camping hell.  The play, by Ross Mueller, is set in a cruddy camping ground forty kilometres from Adelaide. Jake (Chris Uhlmann) and his partner Peta (Carmen Mascia) stay there to save money while working the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

Proximity, poverty, heat and Adelaide are like dynamite for their relationship. It needs only a detonator to blow it.

Then a child, Damien, five years old, appears in their tent and stays. With little or no evidence, they believe he is abused by his 'Uncle' so they decide to 'save' him. In fact, they kidnap him.

There are some good moments in this play, particularly in the first half. The premise has potential. The actors narrate the story as well as playing all the ancillary characters. Peta and Jake play car games to stay awake, test each other's knowledge of song lyrics, but mostly they get on each other's nerves.

Both actors play the child who talks a lot for a child described as uncannily quiet. Mascia has a naivete and warmth. Uhlmann is lively although his various characters lack clear differentiation.

The script shifts between narration, short poetic monologues, clipped word plays and more naturalistic scenes.  It rambles and does not settle on a style. The writer's intention is not clear in the end.

The theme of violence exacerbated by claustrophobic heat is interesting. However, the true story of the boy's family life as well as his relationship with the Peta and Jake are abandoned when they takes him on the road.

The narrative goes off on a detour that obscures the issues leaving threads of story incomplete. It hurtles too quickly to an unsatisfying ending.

Elissa Anson's canvas design is simple and effective and Kim Baston's soundscape is unobtrusive. Director, Lyn Coleman, uses a style reminiscent of Theatre in Education. It is peppy and light but it loses much of the darker side of the kidnap and what follows.

by Kate Herbert

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