Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Flick, 1 May 2015 ****

By Annie Baker
Red Stitch Actors Theatre, from 1 May 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****
Full review also published online in Herald Sun on Mon May 4, 2015 &  later in print. KH

Ngaire Dawn Fair & Kevin Hofbauer

In her Pulitzer Prize winning play, The Flick, Annie Baker’s cunningly wrought dialogue crackles with wit and illuminates characters and relationships in a surprising series of vignettes.

With assured directed by Nadia Tass, The Flick is a fly-on-the-wall view of three cleaners working in a shabby, old Massachusetts cinema that is one of the last to swap its 35mm film projector for fully digital movies.

The entire 3 hours is set amongst the scruffy, empty seats of the fleapit movie house where Sam (Ben Prendergast) trains new boy, Avery (Kevin Hofbauer), in the niceties of sweeping up spilled popcorn, lolly wrappers and some scarily unidentifiable and unsavoury jetsam.

Meanwhile, Rose (Ngaire Dawn Fair), the stroppy projectionist, ventures out from behind the glass wall of the projection room only to taunt the two young men who are her puppets.

Initially, the three are cool and remote in their communication, struggling to find common ground and appearing to be two-dimensional stereotypes, even to each other.

Sam and Avery discover a mutual love of movies and Sam challenges Avery with the movie trivia game, Six Degrees of Separation, finding increasingly difficult tests of Avery’s savant-like memory of movies.  

The beauty of Baker’s script is that, just when it seems to be going nowhere, like its characters, the relationships intensify and Sam, Avery and Rose share their dreams, secrets and wounds, becoming friends rather than merely co-workers.

The story explores the psychological and emotional layers of three ordinary people who slowly reveal their hearts and minds, making themselves vulnerable, testing loyalties and trying intimacy.

Of course, it all goes pear-shaped around the same time as the cinema faces a change of ownership and policy. Will the friendships go the same way as the 35mm projector?

Tass elicits nuanced, sensitive and funny performances from her cast.

Kevin Hofbauer is sympathetic as Avery, the repressed, depressed and compulsive 20-year old who is obsessed with 35mm film, and Hofbauer’s portrait of this ambitious, isolated and angry young man is penetrating and detailed.

Ngaire Dawn Fair is sassy and charismatic as 21-year old Rose, making her likeable despite her aggressive manipulative, dishonest and manic behaviour.

As Sam, Prendergast captures the resentful, directionless and lovelorn 35-year old, and his face flickers with Sam’s inner turmoil and pervasive sadness.

Who knew that popcorn, movies and cleaning could combine to create such a compelling recipe?

By Kate Herbert

Ngaire Dawn Fair & Ben Prendergast

Directed by Nadia Tass
Winner 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
With Ngaire Dawn Fair, Dion Mills, Ben Prendergast & Kevin Hofbauer
Set Designer Shaun GurtonLighting Designer David ParkerAssistant Lighting Designer Clare Springett Costume Designer Rebecca DunnComposers + Sound Designers Russell Goldsmith & Daniel Nixon

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