Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Caretaker, Dec 13, 2017 ***

By Allen Laverty, presented by La Mama
At La Mama Theatre, until Dec 17 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Thursday Dec 14, 2017 & later in print (15/12 TBC). KH
Allen Laverty-The-Caretaker_pic by Paula van Beek
Memory can be a loyal, or a fickle friend and Allen Laverty, in a nostalgic wander down his own memory lane, looks at both reliable and erratic memories in his solo show, The Caretaker.

The performance style ambles around as much as the content does: Laverty starts with a snippet of physical comedy before shifting to personal storytelling and conversational audience interaction.

He relates tales from his childhood, recollections of his grandfather and, finally, poignant descriptions of his mother’s recent memory loss and his challenging role as her carer – the ‘caretaker’ of the title.

The emotional and personal details in his portrayal of his grandfather and mother are the most effective and affecting elements: Pa smoking his roll-your-own cigarette, mum repeatedly asking the same question, and Laverty showering his mother when she is incapable.

The set design (Tamara Kirby) incorporates a workbench bearing items used and owned by his grandfather, including a woodworking vice that Laverty uses to carve a wooden spoon throughout the performance.

Laverty’s stories touch on mental illness and psychiatric hospitals and he scares audience members with a weird childhood ‘toy’ that gives its players electric shocks while illustrating the harshness of electric shock therapy.

Although Laverty started making a physical comedy about a bumbling handyman, his intention changed when his mother started to lose her memory, and this has left him with a couple of different plays battling for precedence.

The script needs a clearer structure and dramatic arc to link its various threads, or it could focus on a single character: Laverty’s mother could anchor the narrative from the beginning rather than becoming the focus at the end.

This production may crave a more dynamic, cohesive structure, but The Caretaker has a raw, emotional truth when Laverty tells his personal stories.

By Kate Herbert

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