Thursday, 30 September 2004

Personality Games, Gordon Parker & Neil Cole, Sep 30, 2004

 Personality Games  
by Gordon Parker and Neil Cole  
La Mama, Courthouse Theatre, Sept to Oct 9, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sep 30, 2004

One of the writers of Personality Games, Gordon Parker, is an academic psychiatrist and Executive Director of the Black Dog Foundation. His co-writer, Neil Cole,  now runs the Depression Awareness Research Project.

Between them, they have a fund of knowledge about mental illness.

Parker's psychiatric experience is the basis of this interesting play about Roger, a psychiatrist (Jim Daly) who takes on Kittie, (Michelle Hall) a difficult patient with Borderline Personality.

Roger struggles not only with her internal issues, but with his own attraction to Kittie. Both characters test their own and others' boundaries. The result for both characters could be disastrous.

There is a problem theatrically with setting a play inside a psychiatrist's office. There is little or no physical action.

To overcome the static nature of the relationship, two masked characters encourage him to act. They are his Id (Don Bridges) and Super Ego. (Babs McMillan)

While Roger listens to Kittie, the two fight for precedence in Roger's mind. Id wants Roger to satisfy his pleasure urges while Super Ego wants him to hold the correct line.

We see the psychiatrist as fallible, flawed, in danger and dangerous. The notion of the psychiatrist's inner world bubbling up and interfering with his professional behaviour is all too believable. We know there are some who have crossed the sexual line in the sand.

At times, the masks are an awkward theatrical device and often state the obvious.

As Roger, Jim Daly captures the psychiatrist's rigid, distant, stitched up professionalism.  We are dying for him to loosen up, preferably with his wife Dianne, (Babs McMillan) rather than his patient. Hall becomes more comfortable with Kittie's mania as the play goes on.

The final scenes are the most satisfying. There is more emotional action, Roger, Kittie, Dianne and Roger's slimy friend, Andrew (Bridges) are changed and reveal themselves to us.

This is recognition theatre for the chattering professions and the audience seemed comprised almost completely of these workers.

The dialogue is frequently expository and sometimes injected with jargon and anecdotes. This interferes with the drama of the struggle between characters.

There are two primary relationships for Roger: Kittie and Dianne. We do not need his friend, Andrew. The focus on Roger's obsession with Kittie needs balancing with his struggles to maintain his home life.

LOOK FOR: Kittie's final revelation.

By Kate Herbert

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