Saturday, 18 May 2002

Roulette A & B, Raimondo Cortese, May 18, 2002

Roulette A  by Raimondo Cortese 
Ranters Theatre  at Chapel off Chapel, May 18 until  June 1, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Roulette, a collection of plays by Raimondo Cortese and Ranters Theatre, is a movable feast that reappears regularly with variations. It changes venues, cities, even the number of the plays in the program alters each time.  It is always a compelling evening.

This round at Chapel off Chapel, includes eight plays in two programs. Program A comprises four two-handers: Legacy, Night, Fortune and Sickness. The acting, writing and direction are intelligent and skilful.

The stage bears only a few chairs and props in an empty space. The actors and the dialogue are at the heart of the work.

Directors, Adriano Cortese  and Bob Daoud,  keep action simple and focus intently on relationships. Pacing is impeccable and the direction serves the text superbly. These are not 'look at me' directors.

Each play is an intense dialogue between two people who are strangers or acquaintances. The characters are ordinary people in unusual circumstances.

The meetings between pairs seem, at first, unremarkable. Each play has  a positive and a negative character and we are fascinated with the dynamic of the relationship and conversations.

Legacy (Beth Buchanan, Tony Nickolakopoulos) is set on a street corner. A young woman sells skin care products while a construction worker has his lunch break.  

The woman is dislikable but Cortese makes her vulnerable. Nickolakopoulos is exceptional as the worker. His warmth and positivity is contagious and his natural charm draws the audience into his engagement with the frightened, angry young woman.

In Night, set in a club, Kelly Tracey  is almost teeth-jarringly wired as the young woman out to get drunk. Her meeting with a stranger, a dental nurse (Kristina Bidenko) becomes a drunken rave ending in a brief burst of passion. Tracey's fragile drunk is sympathetic and Bidenko is tragic in her quest for nightly obliteration

In Fortune Torquil Neilson and Nickolakopoulos unravel a mysterious relationship. A prodigal son returns after his mother's death to claim her house after a ten year absence. He and his mother's partner play a status game which finds the son weilding all the power.

In Sickness, a dying patient, played passionately by Robert Morgan, is visited by a priest (Paul Lum) whose attempts to cheer the patient are in vain. The rage, deception of Morgan's character and the awful ordinariness of his life and death are the tragedy here.

These four plays are a delight to see.

Roulette A and B alternate nights.

By Kate Herbert

Roulette B  by Raimondo Cortese
  Ranters Theatre  at Chapel off Chapel until June 1, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Program B of Roulette by Raimondo Cortese is no disappointment. Like Program A, it comprises four short plays and each is a gem. As a group, they provide a landscape of seemingly simple characters.

What we observe ordinary people being strangely intricate creatures with bizarre traits, surprising behaviours and delusions, miscommunications and resentments that torment them.

The acting is stylish and restrained. As in Program A  directors for the plays, Adriano Cortese   and Bob Daoud,  keep the stage almost empty. Actors walk on in full light with no dramatic fade up nor a black out to signal the end.

The pieces stop at their logical point. Actors pause then leave the stage or take a bow. The focus always remains on character, dialogue and script.

We are not overwhelmed with technology that is currently consuming much of our theatre.

Raimondo Cortese's writing is delightful. Each character is a hive of buzzing idiosyncrasies. They speak like mad birds, pecking at each other. They pull ideas and memories from the backs of their brains, surprising us with non-sequiturs.

Petroleum is a cunningly wrought meeting between two men. Young  Gordon (Torquil Neilson) tinkers with a lawn mower in a country garage. Another man (Robert Morgan ) awaits the mechanic to fix his car after it hit a wallaby.

The two begin civilly but the customer is wired and ready to pop at the slightest provocation. Cortese cleverly unfolds their stories in fits and bursts. The relationship rushes to its conclusion.

In Inconsolable,  Tom (Paul Lum) is interrupted table by dizzy Kat at his cafĂ© table. (Heather Bolton) Although they are strangers, they travel an entire relationship in one conversation. They meet, flirt, tease, annoy, bicker and separate without ever being intimate.

In Hotel  a hardened, foul-mouthed hotel cleaner (Kristina Bidenko)  advises to her younger counterpart. (Beth Buchanan)  What begins as mateship and a union against the bosses, ends as a violent, abusive and saddening outburst.

Borneo  is set on an international flight. Angelica (Bolton) reveals more than she should to younger sillier Sal. (Kelly Tracey) The ending shows how little one can trust a stranger.

All of program A and B are worth a night out.

By Kate Herbert

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