Tuesday, 13 July 2004

Toby by Abe Pogos, July 13, 2004

Toby  by Abe Pogos 
La Mama, Carlton Courthouse July 13 to  31, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Abe Pogos's play, Toby, is a peculiar hybrid. 
 It merges a non-specific historical period with science fiction and comedy with underlying themes of outsiders. It works more often because of Catherine Hill's slick direction than Pogos's writing although the script does have some merit.

Toby (Tim Stitz) is like the village idiot. He lives rough outside of an unspecified town and is hounded by the sheriffs. Duke, (Adam Cass) wears the sheriff's badge and is obsessed with rounding up every gypsy in the region. The problem is that there are no gypsies. They are either a myth or have been exterminated long ago.

His younger sheriff, Christie, (Christopher Brown) feigns protection of Toby but he is the smiling villain of the piece. He wrestles with his childhood friend, the valiant solider, Garth, (Benjamin Fuller) and competes for Garth's warm-hearted love, Joan. (Tess Butler)

Hill keeps the pace rapid, music perky and scene changes seamless in this play that reads like a parable about difference and prejudice. With the performers, Hill finds an appropriate balance between the comic and the bizarre.

Brown plays the villainous Christie with relish and his character gives the play its core. Stitz is consistent as Toby but the tone and rhythm of the characters needs more variation. Adam Cass makes meal of the confused gypsy-hunter, Duke. His decline from powerful figure to ragged, filthy creature is enjoyable. Butler, Fuller and Janine Watson are competent in support roles.

Peter Mumford's set is a delight. The stage is in traverse - audience sits on both sides of the action - and the floor is thickly littered with plane tree leaves. Looming over the heads of the characters are branches and falling leaves. The forest is ominous.

The strangest and least effective components of Toby relate to some fleshy anemone-like tree parasites. And their relationship to a silver alien that appears occasionally towards the end of the play. These seem to be controlling the world of the characters for some inexplicable reason.

Toby is very funny in parts and the energy of the ensemble is strong and carries the play to tis rather odd ending.

LOOK FOR: Peter Mumford's leafy design

By Kate Herbert

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