Friday, 23 November 2012

Pompeii L.A. Nov 22, 2012 ***1/2

Pompeii L.A. by Declan Greene, Malthouse Theatre
Merlin Theatre, Malthouse, Nov 22 to Dec 9, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: *** 1/2
This review is NOT a Herald Sun review.

Declan Greene’s grim, satirical look at life, death and child stardom in L.A. has some gripping emotional moments and startling visuals.

The play begins with satirical backroom scenes between a make-up artist (Anna Samson) and a sozzled talk show guest who we later discover is the dead Judy Garland played with wry, jaded elegance by Belinda McClory.

Scenes and characters bleed together as the make-up room slips into a T.V. studio, a soap opera rehearsal, a film set, an L.A. apartment and, finally, a car crash site.

Movie directors, stage hands, actors, medics all blur into each other as we try to make sense of this bleak, angry, confused, sometimes annoyingly abstracted world.

From the clues in the dialogue and action, we determine that someone, clearly a man, is injured. It is also obvious from all the clues that this injured person is a former child star.

Then finally, in one long, slow, silent and agonising scene, a battered car crouches in the centre of a huge, open space as police forensic officers and medics collect evidence at the accident site.

The space is once more transformed into a starkly lit, clinically white hospital ward where the injured person lies in a bed beside an unconscious, older man (Greg Stone).

For long, painful moments we witness the patient watching, television, taunting the other patient and being seen by doctors and nurses who mumble non-specific diagnoses then insensitively request his autograph.

Between his lucid moments are bouts of unconsciousness depicted by loud, distressing bursts of television static.

The problems with this production arise from its preoccupation with style over content, but the threads of the first half of the play are drawn together as we confirm that the chaos of the first scenes is an echo of a shattered, unconscious mind trawling to make sense of his predicament.

By Kate Herbert 

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