Wednesday, 25 January 2006

The True Amazon Adventures of Roger Casement, Jan 25, 2006

 The True Amazon Adventures of Roger Casement
by Andrew Shaw
La Mama, Jan 25 to Feb 12, 2006
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jan 25, 2006

The True Adventures of Roger Casement, by Andrew Shaw, has an interesting central premise but the writing and production are flawed.

Sir Roger Casement (Eliot Summers) was an Irish Protestant, British Consul-General to South America and a renowned humanitarian. He investigated atrocities perpetrated by British in the Amazon then shocked the government by joining the 1916 Irish uprising.

When he was captured, his diaries, detailing his illicit homosexual affairs with Brazilian boys, were discovered. His reputation was irreparably tarnished.

Shaw’s play is based on the supposition that the diaries were forged to discredit the Irish hero. In Shaw’s version, Foreign Office officials force a young homosexual (Mike McEvoy) to write a false and lurid dairy.

Shaw’s script is at its best when spare and sardonic. It is let down with informational and expository dialogue loaded with facts about Casement, rubber plantations and British imperialism.

Speeches about the ethics and politics of homosexuality in 1916 are informative but make clumsy dialogue. Great dexterity is required to integrate fact into theatre. Less is more.

Director, Robert Reid, struggles to find a consistent style and form. His actors wear grotesque white face as well as wearing flesh-coloured half masks that are removed too frequently. The intention of the masks is unclear; do they represent the past, the reflective moments or perhaps unspoken thoughts?

Intermittent tableaux create physical imagery but the changes between them are too long. There is even a child-sized puppet that is from a totally different style.

The acting in the show is very uneven but there are a few performances worth noting. Michael F. Cahill is often commanding and comical as Smith, the Foreign Office bully-boy.

McEvoy captures a fey romanticism in the young bureaucrat, Thomson and Simon Morrison-Baldwin has presence as Pepe.

Summers is best as Thomson’s secret lover but lacks gravitas as Casement and stumbles over the wordy dialogue. Robert Lloyd seems uncomfortable as Delaney and Liz McColl, as Mrs. Potter, aims for the grotesque but ends up overacting.

Two of the better scenes come in the last moments of the play. The trio of bureaucrats checking the false diary is simple and effective and, in the final scene, the fantasies of young Thomson interlink successfully with the tale of Casement and his lover (Tobias Manderson-Galvin).

This idea has merit but the pace and style of the production need some attention.

By Kate Herbert

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