Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Colder, March 18, 2018 ***

Written by Lachlan Philpott, by Red Stitch
At Red Stitch Theatre, until April 8, 2018 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online & in print  on Tues March 20 2018. KH
 Ben Pfeiffer, Caroline Lee, Brigid Gallacher - photo  Teresa Noble Photography
A mother’s worst fear is realised when she loses her little boy for seven hours at Disneyland, but her despair is compounded when, decades later, her son goes missing again as an adult in Sydney.

In Lachlan Philpott's play, Colder, David's (Charles Purcell) trail goes cold when he is a child, and even colder when he disappears as an adult, when his mother, Robyn (Caroline Lee), lover, Ed (Ben Pfeiffer), and friend, Kay (Brigid Gallacher), seem frozen into inaction.

Philpott effectively uses a fragmented, non-linear narrative structure to repeatedly shift timeframes between the young Robyn (Marissa Bennett) who frantically searches for her son at Disneyland, to Lee's older Robyn before and after David's disappearance as an adult.

In Alyson Campbell’s production, Lee’s fragile and friable Robyn almost vibrates with anxiety as she tries to maintain contact with her emotionally distant son, a task that is frustratingly difficult when he is present but impossible when he disappears.

As young Robyn, Marissa Bennett is rigid with fear as she pleads for help to find her lost son, and these scenes provide history for older Robyn that explains her obsessional need to store her possessions in Tupperware containers to avoid losing them.

Philpott’s language is abstract and poetic, rhythmic and sometimes choral, with overlapping and repetitive dialogue that echoes the shared panic and frustration of David's mother and friends, although the structure and language create a jerky and awkward rhythm to the play.

The theme of emotional distance runs through the play, epitomised by David who, until he meets the sensitive Ed, is emotionally detached, even cold, unable or unwilling to engage in more than anonymous sexual liaisons with men, all played by the versatile James Wardlaw.

However, in an attempt to capture David's emotional distance, Purcell's delivery of dialogue is sometimes uncomfortable and disconnected.

Colder keeps the audience at arm's length from the characters' pain as they wait for news of the missing David, but this makes it difficult to engage emotionally with the story or characters and leaves one strangely unmoved by the end.

By Kate Herbert

Cast: Marissa Bennett, Brigid Gallacher, Caroline Lee, Ben Pfeiffer, Charles Purcell, James Wardlaw.

Set & Costume Design Bethany J Fellows
Lighting Design Bronwyn Pringle
Sound Design Chris Wenn
Assistant Director Sarah Vickery
Stage Manager Brittany Coombs
Assistant Stage Manager Thomas Crawford

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