Friday, 22 May 2009
Melburnalia No. 2, May 22, 2009 **1/2
Melburnalia No. 2, by White Whale Theatre
fortyfivedownstairs, May 22 to June 6, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 22, 2009
There is certainly potential in the plan to commission and stage a program of short plays based about the suburbs of Melbourne. Several of the five plays in Melburnalia No. 2 have incorporate a coherent style, structure and intention but the program is inconsistent with a couple of plays struggling to find dramatic merit.
One of the more successful pieces is Maribyrnong: I Could Be You, by Hoa Pham (OK), is a telling observation of the despair of three detainees of the Maribyrnong Detention Centre and the diverse reasons for their incarceration. A young Greek man (Grant Foulkes) who has lived in Australia almost his entire life, is stripped of his residency and deported to Greece because he committed a crime. A Vietnamese student (Fanny Hanusin) worked more hours than her student visa permitted and a disoriented Eastern European woman (Margot Fenley) remains a mystery to us.
Mentone: Song #1 is an almost choral play for voices written by Aidan Fennessy. Five actors create a suburban landscape with snatches of dialogue from multiple characters. We hear families arguing, old friends reminiscing, schoolchildren chattering, footy players training. Finally, the entire chorus of voices makes sense when an old woman emerges, waiting for her husband to return from the war on a train. We have witnessed the scattered scraps of her memories. It is a well-executed and revealing poetic play.
On a lighter note, Danny Katz’s Caulfield: Motherfathers, portrays three couples of parents at a wine-soaked dinner party in middle-class Caulfield. They tease each other, taunt their partners and one wife reveals her husband’s naughty, little secret. Katz’s couples unmask their sulky, inner toddlers as their evening disintegrates.
Less successful is Andrea James’ play, Birrarung: The Forever Zone which muddles two completely different styles. The start is an almost cartoon-like representation of fascistic tram ticket inspectors (Shane Lee, Hanusin) who interrogate an unusual fare evader (Bryan Andy), a silent aboriginal man wearing a possum skin cloak. The angel of tram conductors (Shiralee Morris) appears to remind them of the past and the style shifts to an historical commentary by this modern, aboriginal warrior.
The least effective script is Preston: Porktown, by Kit Lazaroo. It is a very confused allegory about the takeover of the pig farms around Preston by real estate agents over the last century. The language is awkwardly pseudo-poetic, the characters are annoying and unclear in their intentions and there is a baby pig puppet with an illusive metaphorical meaning. I still don’t understand it.
David Mence’s direction is inconsistent and loose but two or three plays make it an entertaining, albeit not theatrically innovative evening.