Friday, 3 November 2000
The Procedure, Nov 3, 2000
by Peta Murray Melbourne Workers' Theatre
at North Melbourne Town Hall until November 18, 2000
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Actor, Jim Daly, loves a solo show and he does them superbly. In The Procedure by Peta Murray. he plays Mike, a corrupt politician who roams his office one Friday evening, drinking himself into a stupor while coming to terms with the possibility that he may have colon cancer.
Sounds serious? In fact, it is hilarious. Daly scampers about the open space of the Supper Room at North Melbourne Town Hall like an addled puppy. Peta Murray's script, even though it is based on her own experience of colon cancer, is fast-moving, witty and well-observed.
Although Daly is on stage alone for 95 minutes, Murray peoples the play with vivid and lively off-stage characters by giving Mike a series of phone calls to and from his media officer, doctor pal, wine-growing mate, his wife and son.
The audience is seated on two sides of the action as Mike, the Health Minister and ex-pharmacist, darts from several phones on his desk to a cupboard filled with pills and potions. He dives in and out doors, changing clothes, making plans, panicking and preparing his own obituary and eulogy.
The politician is called Mike, as is every other off-stage character to whom he refers, except his wife, Ellen.
The action gets wilder and more out of control as Mike gets drunker and more convinced that he has cancer. As Health Minister, he instituted "The Procedure' which is a cheap and efficient health test for bowel cancer. He receives a cryptic message from his mate the surgeon about his own stool test and believes it is a cancer diagnosis.
Daly builds from smug, lying and composed politician at the beginning of the play, to almost delirious madness. His drunken ramblings are a riot as he tears off his suit, pops more pharmaceuticals from his hoard and prowls like a caged lion in his Health Department offices.
Murray seems to change styles in the second half, shifting from broad political satire to a more abstract and slightly confused form.
Director, Aidan Fennessy, highlights the insane roller coaster ride that Mike goes on as he faces his fate. The space is lit dramatically in strong almost cartoon-like colour (Jens Milbret) and various audio visuals provide Mike with a trip into his past and future.
By Kate Herbert