Saturday, 9 February 2002

VCA School of Drama Directors' Season, Feb 9, 2002

Ticket to Ride -VCA  School of Drama Directors' Season
Speaking in Tongues by Andrew Bovell
Journeys in a Suitcase  by Tanja Beer
One Good Useless Man by Michael Block
Grant Street Theatre  until February 13, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert, Feb 9, 2002

One important skill of a director is the ability to choose a good script. Director, Diane Gavelis, selected Andrew Bovell's Speaking in Tongues  for her graduation production at VCA.  

The play is a stylish piece of writing upon which Bovell's award winning film, Lantana,  is based. Gavelis directs parts two and three of the play and uses its idiosyncratic structure to great advantage.

The narrative, about a woman who disappears one night when her car breaks down, is broken into four strands.  In part two, four characters inhabit separate but overlapping sectors of the stage and reveal their own obsessional stories.

Bovell's clever construction creates dramatic tension. The pace of this production is sluggish in its first half and some of the acting is awkward.

Part three is well paced with two delightfully committed and credible performances from Mark Tregonning and Christopher Brown.  A sparse design, (Iain Smith)  evocative lighting (Dan Sheehan) and sound design (Jethro Woodward) enhance the production.

Tanja Beer  in her project called Journeys in a Suitcase  chose a completely different style of work and process of development. With a group of six teenage women she devised a movement-based work around themes of travel.

The continuing visual motif is suitcases. They are packed, sat upon, carried, ridden and used to expose or conceal.

The young women take turns, perhaps too predictably, to present their characters' fears and excitement about travel, escape, alienation and lost luggage.

The piece makes good youth theatre but needs a more coherent through line to increase its appeal to a broader audience.

One Good Useless Man is a three-hander written and directed by Michael Block.  It is a futuristic, absurdist story about a man living in a Big Brother-Brave New World environment ruled by TV commercials and bureaucratic controllers. He discovers life and love with a new model of robotic servant.

The script is quirky and entertaining but it is not a new topic and it lacks the substance to make it compelling as a socio-political commentary.  The frequent and lengthy scene changes and blackouts need to be tightened to give the piece a swifter pace.

By Kate Herbert
for 2 pages:

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