Wednesday, 10 August 2005

Cheech by Francois Letourneau, MT, Aug 10, 2005

Cheech by Francois Letourneau
Translated  by Rick Des Rochers  
Melbourne Theatre Company
 Fairfax Studio, Victorian Arts Centre, Aug 8 to September 24, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Cheech, a play by contemporary Canadian writer, Francois Letourneau, is often funny, generally outrageous, riddled with inner urban angst and fast dialogue.  Be prepared for male and female nudity, coarse language and some violence.

The performances and direction (Gordon McCall) are broad and colourful but the play and its young, desperate, out of control characters, leave one feeling unsatisfied.

The story centres on the thriving and overt sex industry in Montreal.

Ron (Aaron Blabey) runs an escort service. On this day, the Chrysler convention is in town and Ron must win this lucrative group booking by impressing the boss with a photo portfolio of sex kittens. Cheech is his unseen arch rival.

Letourneau uses a non-linear but narrative based structure. The play is set during a single day but does not run chronologically. Scenes are short, like ad breaks, and are revisited out of order.  A digital time clock alerts us to the actual time of day.

Canadian director, McCall, keeps the pace rapid and stages the play on two levels of a vivid, metropolitan environment. (Shaun Gurton)

Aaron Blabey makes the volatile and despairing Ron credible and funny. His depiction of Ron's secret anger management exercises is hilarious.

Ron's sidekick, Maxime, (Kenneth Spiteri) takes photos of the perky but secretive escort, Jenny. (Miria Kostiuk) Max gets himself into unexpected hot water when he takes the girlie pics to the pharmacy to be printed.

Max is preoccupied with Stephanie, (Kate Kendall) a suicidal prostitute who slits her wrist while on a professional call to the apartment of the socially awkward Olivier (Daniel Frederiksen).

Meanwhile, upstairs, Alexis (Jason Raftopoulos) obsessively awaits a call from a girl

The absurdities and tragedies of all five characters converge in one final anti-climactic scene.

Characters are bound to modern technology: mobile phones, voicemail, voice recorders, ghetto blasters and cameras.

They are all psychologically dysfunctional: Sophie uses anti-depressants, Ron a self help pop psychology, Stephanie attempts suicide, Alexis wills his phone to ring and Sophie masks her identity.

The play is entertaining, rapid-fire, contemporary in characters and content but strangely emotionally alienating.

By Kate Herbert

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