Wednesday, 8 March 2006

Still a Hero by Nicky Marr, March 8, 2006

Still a Hero by Nicky Marr

 La Mama, Carlton, March 8 to 26, 2006

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 8, 2006

Cross-cultural relationships have often been the stuff of dramatic narrative. Racial conflict, family disapproval, cultural and religious differences and plain, old prejudice can cause relationships to founder.

Nicky Marr’s play, Still a Hero, attempts to reflect the challenge faced by Sherman (Keith Brockett), a Chinese-Malaysian international trader, and Monica (Tamara Searle), an Australian photographer of Irish heritage.

Their initial physical attraction is not enough to sustain them through the confusing period of adjustment to their cultural and personal differences and the real or presumed prejudices of their family and friends.

The concept has dramatic potential but the production has mixed success.

Marr’s dialogue is peppered with platitudes and the characters and relationships remain two-dimensional.

Director, Kelly Somes, with Nicky Marr as choreographer, introduces some abstract physicalisation of the relationship, but these interludes do not interconnect with the very static dialogue scenes. The production employs two disconnected styles and might benefit from the styles being interwoven.

Brockett and Searle are more comfortable and engaging in the movement-based sequences in the play. They never genuinely connect with the rather awkward dialogue so their characters remain superficial.

There are some comical cameos by Tim Stitz as a surly Chinese waiter, Sherman’s profoundly prejudiced Aunty Mei and Monica’s gay friend, Steve. However, these caricatures seem out of sync with the rest of the play.

Projected photographic images and a collage wall provide some interesting design elements but these fail to enhance the show are not integrated sufficiently into the fabric of the production.

The narrative seems uncertain of its direction. The cultural issues become lost early and the relationship is not adequately developed for us to have sympathy with its failure. Monica doubts Sherman’s fidelity because he has failed to mention his dead wife and the focus shifts briefly and inappropriately to Steve’s collapsed gay affair with a married man.

 The climactic scene, in which Monica is trapped in their burning house only to be rescued by the heroic Sherman, is depicted in such abstract movement that its dramatic purpose is almost missed.

The production lacks cohesion and coherence and the script does not challenge the issues arising in mixed race relationships with sufficient rigour.

By Kate Herbert

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