Thursday, 30 January 2003

The Thinning Complex, Brettcardie Ingram, Feb 27, 2003

 The Thinning Complex by Brettcardie Ingram  
 The Storeroom, Feb 27 to March 1, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

There is nothing cheerful about The Thinning Complex by Brettcardie Ingram. It is a relentlessly dark and angry piece about a man with a gambling problem and the woman who tries to love him. Carl  (Hugh Sexton ) calls himself a poet. He is one of the inner city pseudo-artists with limited talent, no money or job.

He indulges in cynical attacks on the middle class and other easy targets despite having no social conscience. By the time we see him, he writes little and gambles all his dole money every second Friday. His girlfriend, Michelle,  (Devon Taylor)  totally supports him financially and is ready to relinquish this unwanted role. Carl drives her to distraction and rage - and us. He is maddeningly unreasonable, selfish, cruel and deceitful.

There are some interesting elements in The Thinning Complex. Ingram writes from personal experience as a problem gambler that gives the character authenticity.

Carl's confusion, anger and deception are totally believable. Carl suffers side effects of the gambling. He is impotent.  Michelle takes this as a personal affront because she is ignorant of his addiction and the causes of his impotence. It puzzles outsiders why a woman would suffer such a dysfunctional man. 

The play is too wordy. It needs action, emotional or physical, to relieve the demand on the audience to listen. The two long monologues are too much.

Taylor, as Michelle, plays the unceasing grief but manages to engage audience sympathy. Sexton, as Carl, is best which he drunkenly abuses Michelle's friends. At other times, he plays so down beat and introspective that he is almost inaudible.

Director, Julian Firminger  confines the actors in a cluttered space emphasising their disconnection. This restricts the space too much for the actors.

His use of video monitors draws the eye but most of the images are cryptic to say the least: leaves, ferns, pegs, abstract lines. The poker machine video makes an effective backdrop to Carl's rave about gambling but he is placed so awkwardly we cannot see both him and the images.

If you are after a night of laughs, this is not the play for you.

By Kate Herbert

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