Wednesday, 15 November 2000

Escape from the Living Dead, Nov 15, 2000

by Abe Pogos
La Mama at The Courthouse, Nov 15 until December 2, 2000
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The original intention of a playwright can sometimes be obscured in the final script. This seems to be the case with Abe Pogos's play, Escape from the Living Dead.

Pogos states in the program that the play is about "the nature of racism and misogyny. It dramatises the different ways these attitudes manifest themselves amongst people who believe they are acting with the best intentions..."

However, these two issues are  dealt with in such a heavy-handed manner that the point is blunted. Pogos employs a great deal of preaching to the audience through the characters that does not allow any genuine human dimension to the issues or the characters.

The five actors (Dennis Coard, David Davies, Jane Conroy, Lisa Maza, Andrea Swifte) work very hard to make Pogos's characters come to life. Each finds moments of emotional truth or humour. They struggle to bring to life characters who speak inconsistent and repetitive dialogue.

Kathy (Maza) is a Koori actor in a country town theatre company run by Ted (Coard). She works on a Boris Karloff style zombie play with other actors, Bernadette and Travis (Conroy  Davies)

Kathy is patronised, abused and mistrusted by the actors and the deeply conservative publican at the hotel where she lives. (Swifte) She is given roles of only children or animals. Her work is criticised, her culture demeaned and her opinions ignored.

One major problem with the script is that Pogos has all the characters describing or discussing each other much of the time rather than allowing us to see their interaction or observe their characters living and breathing.

The narrative has no clear through line. It is confusing an the story is often incoherent. This is through no lack of effort or skill on the part of the actors.

The style is non-naturalistic most of the time. The schlock-horror play within a play is directed in a broad 30s movie style. This epic style spills over into the Arne Neeme's direction of the 'real' scenes.

Conroy as Bernadette tries,= with missionary zeal to teach Kathy to act. Coard, plays Ted as a dogmatic, slightly nutty priestly character while Davies as Travis is scarily obsessive about appropriating Kathy's indigenous culture. Maza manages to play Kathy's journey from child-likeness to rebellion.

The play has potential and good acting but the style and script are in the end unsatisfying.

By Kate Herbert

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