Sunday, 10 March 2002

Ordinary Misery, March 10, 2002

By Irene Korsten  La Mama, MArch 10 to 24, 2002

At La Mama

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

After a week in Adelaide seeing too much mediocre theatre, it is a relief to see Ordinary Misery. This three-hander is tastefully written, directed and acted.

Irene Korsten's script is well crafted, simple but never obvious. The story is about Emily,  (Caroline Lee) a young woman recently emerged from drug rehab.

Lee plays her vulnerability and fragility with great sensitivity and skill. Director, David Wicks with Lee, highlights Emily's vibrating nervousness.

 We are helpless witnesses to her stubborn refusal to see that Tony, (Richard Bligh OK) her recovery support person and new 'boyfriend,' is using her for sex.

Emily visits drug recovery meetings where she meets Tony. He is eight years clean and selfishly sees Emily as an easy sexual target.

Bligh plays him with relish. He captures perfectly Tony's angry, rough, manipulative, sexist, working class character.

Emily also visits a therapist, Helen who is portrayed with great empathy, ease and attentiveness by Angela Campbell. the sub-text of dialogue is ever-present. She is aware that Emily is on thin ice with her health and rehabilitation and that Tony is dangerous.

Wicks' direction is subtle and almost invisible but it is this very quiet quality that makes the piece work so well. The actors stay in the space at all times. As scenes shift the therapist moves out of light, Tony drifts at the sidelines, moving only when his next scene is beginning.

Emily is always in the presence of the two people who are helping her. One, Tony, is a pretender. The other, Helen, is unable to stop Emily's inevitable slide into depression and addiction.

Korsten's dialogue is brisk and beautifully observed. Each of the three characters has a distinctive voice and rhythm. The story is well paced and, although we fear for Emily we never know where she is actually going. We hope she is moving forward.

The tragedy of this girl's life is that she has no idea that her past contributes to her addiction. She has no awareness of the real world and expects that being clean will make her happy. She does not understand the ordinariness of life, ordinary misery.

The world is not necessarily a happy place for us all. As her therapist says, we have to do something to feel worthwhile. It does not come automatically.

It is a hard road to walk, the return to health and wholeness.

By Kate Herbert

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