Wednesday, 1 May 2002

Scissors, Paper, Rock by Daniel Keene, May 2002

Keene Taylor Theatre Project 
45 Downstairs 45 Flinders Lane Until May 12, 2002
Bookings: 9328 5870
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Scissors, Paper, Rock, by Daniel Keene, won the Premier's Literary Award in NSW in 2000. IT is a sensitive, realistic and trim script that deals with one man's descent from redundancy, through depression into psychosis.

Although it is such an unhappy topic, the play is not relentlessly tragic. Keene injects his signature dose of comedy into the pithy dialogue. He does not use Aussie idiom or rough vernacular as the basis of jokes but, rather, a gentler ironic tone.

Marco Chiappi is compelling as Kevin, the Catholic stonemason who patiently tends the home after being stood down from "the old works" 18 months ago.  He cooks, cleans and awaits the return of his wife (Anastasia Malinoff) and teenage daughter (Chloe Armstrong OK)

He is a different man now. The changes wrought in him by his redundancy make him unfamiliar to his wife and child. This is the tragedy of the play. It is the life of one little man with one enormous problem that he cannot articulate or deal with in any way other than depression or drinking.

The tragedy is in the detail. Kevin alienates his only remaining friend (Syd Brisbane OK) with his increasingly strange and secretive behaviour. He obsesses over the stone Madonna he carved and visits the old works daily for reasons to be revealed.
Director, Ariette Taylor creates a complex theatrical landscape in the rather awkward and very white space at 45 Downstairs.

She seats the audience on three sides of the action behind tables as if at a meeting. The action takes place in the centre of the space and at one end in a design by Adrienne Chisholm.

Philip Lethlean's lighting highlights the chill of the home world with cool blue light.

A chorus of volunteer actors intone, sigh and chant amongst or behind the audience. They create environments and crowds as well as providing an evocative vocal soundscape for Kevin's delusional inner world.

Actors leap suddenly onto the tables and run. The action intrudes on us even though we may feel separated by the tables.

Taylor's direction is stunning, inventive yet unintrusive. It adds metaphorical layers to Keene's naturalistic dialogue and narrative.

This is not necessarily a Keene masterpiece but it is yet another powerful statement about the underclass, the workless the ordinary man who suffers alone in his little world at the hand of the uncaring society.

By Kate Herbert

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