Thursday, 8 May 2003

The Paragon, Sidetrack, May 8, 2003

By Adam Hatzimanolis

 Sidetrack Performing Group  for Theatre in the Box
 Black Box, Victorian Arts Centre,  May 8 to 18, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Theatre in the Box at The Black Box is an initiative of the Victorian Arts Centre designed to present culturally diverse, innovative contemporary Australian theatre.

The brief is that the program will include work that would not normally be seen at the Arts Centre but that it will challenge the boundaries of contemporary theatrical form.

The Paragon is interesting as a story-telling exercise by Sydney-based writer-actor, Adam Hatzimanolis. However, it is by no means innovative or challenging in its themes or form. This is surprising from Sidetrack Performing Group which has, since the 1980s, been a company that experiments with form.

Director, Don Mamouney,  creates some short, evocative physical transitions between Hatzimanolis's personal stories. Mamouney creates a strangely fascinating dehumanised opening scene with a printer on stage spewing out pages of Hatzimanolis book from a laptop to the sound of an interviewer's voiceover.

The problem is that Hatzimanolis writing style is predominantly narrative and the structure of the writing is unwieldy. Hatzimanolis tells rather rambling, poorly structured tales of his family and professional life. They are not connected apart from being from his life.

There is potential here for identification theatre for a particular audience. His childhood in a Woolongong fish and chip shop with his Greek parents will be familiar to many. Snippets are memorable. As a child, he struggles to tie his shoelaces and to understand the death of his Uncle.

 He causes a fire in the dad's chip shop then is ripped off by a dodgy mechanic who is restoring his EJ Holden. Even his fantasies about Nicloe Kidman being in his stars will be recognised by some.

Hatzimanolis plays dialogue between characters but there is minimal transformation into or inhabiting of these characters. There is no form to the stories and his casual presentational style and lack of eye contact with us is often unengaging.

 The story teller needs to find a form of presentation that engages and challenges an audience whether by exceptional writing, incredible stories or extraordinary form and style.

By Kate Herbert

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