Friday, 25 October 2002

Mil Quinientos Metros Sobre el Nivel de Jack, Federico León, Oct 25, 2002

Mil Quinientos Metros Sobre el Nivel de Jack by Federico León  

Teatro San Martin  at Black Box

October 25 to November , 2002
Melbourne international Arts Festival

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The emotional force is like an ocean - or in the case of this play - a bathtub. In Argentinian playwright, Federico León's play allows the metaphorical grief and rage to flood out of an overflowing bathtub on stage.

Mil Quinientos Metros Sobre el Nivel de Jack (1,500 metres Above the Level of Jack) is an intimate, almost voyeuristic black comic investigation of grief. It is indeed set in a bathroom and much of the surreal action takes place in the tub.

In darkness, we hear the sound of running water then splashing. A mother (Beatriz Tibaudin) and her aging son, Gaston ,  (Diego Jose Ferrando) tumble into a full tub. She wears a bathing suit. He wears a wet suit. She weeps. He laughs.

 She is mourning the loss of her deep-sea diver husband, Jack,  who never surfaced from his last dive.

They struggle to catch both their emotional and physical breath. Eventually, Gaston's maudlin girlfriend, Lisa  (Carla Crespo) appears with her gangling, confused teenager son, Enso  (Ignacio Augustin Rogers).

The younger mother and son grieve over their abandonment by Lisa's husband. They, in turn, join Gaston and his mother in the bath.

This is an interesting although never masterly play written and directed by young Argentinian rising star, León. The script is flawed. It lacks resonance and depth and is clearly an early play.

 Its black comic elements override any possibility of a study in grief. It relies too heavily on the absurd and the surreal to the detriment of the poignant.

But the production is effective and entertaining. All four performances are compelling. The ravaged but beautiful face of Tibaudin as the older mother is a constant reminder of her loss.

As Gaston, finds an interesting balance between the childishness of the man and his desire to be a father.

Crespo is wonderfully underplayed as the almost silent, chain-smoking Lisa. As her son, Enso, Rogers is appropriately awkward and addled.

The set designed is absolutely realistic. We are so close to this hyper-real bathroom and the overflowing tub, it is like stepping into their bath with this mad family. The intimacy is what makes this work.

What fails the play is its lack of genuine connection to the emotion it seeks to explore - grief.

By Kate Herbert

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