Thursday, 8 December 2005

Ron Present … Gilding the Turd, Dec 8, 2005

Ron Present … Gilding the Turd
by Roderick Poole
La Mama, Carlton,  December 8 to 18, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Roderick Poole is theatrically inventive; he co-founded Primary Source, a group that rolled a huge wheel down Swanston Street in a Melbourne Festival years ago. He founded Strange Fruit, an outdoor theatre company that performs aerial choreography on top of four-metre poles.

In contrast to the expansive, physical, outdoor group productions, Poole performs alone in the tiny space of La Mama with his feet jammed into a wooden box. Yes, his movement is restricted to swaying to and fro because his feet are literally trapped in round holes in the top of the box. It is strangely reminiscent, in a minimalist way, of the figures atop the huge, waving poles of Strange Fruit.

Poole is Ron, an old Aussie bloke who is obviously fond of a drink – hence the swaying. He is also pretty attached to his smokes and lights one from the other or leaves them hanging precariously from his lip, ash dripping to the ground.

Ron is an old codger, a battler, a boozer, a dreamer, a fighter. He mutters potted philosophy and tales of his past as he smokes his darling ciggies. The only thing he loves as  much as smoking is footy and a fight – and probably a beer.

We sit tucked around the foot of his box as he prattles to us like old friends. He runs a few dreams he had past a young man in the audience, asking for interpretation. He gets none.

He asks if any of us ever thought of topping ourselves and suggests it is too hard on the loved ones.

He mentions Irene, his wife, who “wore her patience like a fur,” and, later, he describes simply her death.

All the puff is gone out of Ron. He re-enacts his last prize fight punch for punch. He biffs and smacks with right crosses and upper cuts to the ribs until he is knocked out.

The humour is grim. He reminisces about fighting at the Somme and tells us he was a surgeon there. He cut off a soldier’s gangrenous arm, only to discover he cut off the wrong limb.

Ron may be an old geezer with an addled brain, but he raises some issues and offers us the opportunity to “look inside a bloke’s head.” It is worth the look.

By Kate Herbert

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