Thursday, 5 August 2004

Caresses by Sergi Belbel, Aug 5, 2004

Caresses by Sergi Belbel 
translated by John London by Vicious Fish Theatre
 Theatreworks Aug 5 to 22, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The title of Sergi Belbel's play, Caresses, belies its content. It is a series of short two-hander scenes focussed on the collision between the lives and personalities of two persons.

They are, if not dysfunctional characters, in dysfunctional relationships that are abusive, dependant or fraught.

Caresses is a series of scenes designed like a circle dance. One person moves on to a new partner in the following scene until each has had two scenes. And the cycle meets its beginning.

The form of Caresses is adopted from Arthur Schnitzler's 19th century play, Reigen,(or La Ronde) which was also used by David Hare's very popular, The Blue Room.

Belbel, a Spanish playwright and director, has written a more violent play but it lacks the genuinely dark sexuality of Schnitzler and the zest and humour of Hare.

The characters are generally from the working class, even workless class. In eleven scenes we se each character in two relationships.

Characters shift status, each taking on a different dynamic as they assume a new mask with another pair.

Unlike Hare and Schnitzler, not all the relationships are sexual but each is imbued with danger and passion.

Director, Scott Gooding, stages the scenes amongst randomly scattered used furniture, reminiscent of a St Vincent de Paul furniture warehouse.

Caresses opens with a young woman (Danica Balara) and her boyfriend (Simon Kearney) in a violent and manipulative argument.

What follows is the young woman with her mentally ill mother (Merrin Canning), then the mother in a aged care home encountering an old lover. (Dawn Klingberg)

The elderly woman visits her demented, homeless ex-husband (Barry Friedlander) who is then tormented by a manic thirteen-year-old drug user. (Tim Kelly)

The kid, in turn, has a bath with his nervy father (Kirk Westwood) who then meets, dumps and offends his young lover. (Chloe Armstrong)

She angrily visits her father (Friedlander) who visits and overpowers his gay lover (Gareth Ellis) who dines with his possessive mother (Penelope Bartlau) who is visited by her neighbour, the battered young man from scene one. ( Kearney)

 The cast does the play justice, playing characters with vigour and conviction. Friedlander is particularly good in two very different roles.

It is an ambitious production that is. in the greater part. successful.

LOOK FOR: The rantings of Barry Friedlander as the homeless man.

By Kate Herbert

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