Saturday, May 1, 2010

Review: When Will You Be Home?


By Forty Forty Home

In a review of this double bill Neandellus noted that both pieces would probably work just as well in the form of short stories and this is something we really need to address, colleagues, because it's affecting productivity and for the sake of clear-thinking and right-speaking we need to table some issues that have been ongoing and endemic in our organisation. I can't count the number of times I've heard comments like this in the tea room and the gym and that weird converted chimney where the mandrill hangs out (does HR even know about that?) and yes, in the interests of transparency I'll openly admit that I've frequently put similar sentiments out there, whether in writing or just emanated from my faintly luminescent body during the weekly deep-sea aquarobics outings. But what do we really mean when we say this?

Both halves of When Will You Be Home? are half-hour monologues which might explain things a bit. They're not especially physical – that is, there's no blocking which is indispensable to the experience and the bodily presence of the actors is also secondary. I suppose you could say that they're primarily focused on language or at least linguistic play. And though there is dialogue within each, locating these exchanges within the same performer might make the experience closer to reading, in which various roles are filled out by the one imagination. Again, this makes the drama internal to the language rather than arising from the possibility of real conflict between onstage agents (this isn't categorically stating that the individual can't contain multitudes, but I hope you get what I mean).

AND WHAT I MEAN: is that the first piece, Laura Jean McKay's “To See Her,” presents us with more than a dozen characters but little dramatic conflict. It could be described as an 'atmospheric' work, in that the people who populate the tale are mere thumbnails and the journey it describes is structured around disconnected moments rather than a cumulatively developing structure. The framing device – an overnight bus trip from Toowoomba to Ipswich – isn't figuratively relevant to the mini-scenarios that take place, and the ending isn't really a conclusion, just another occurrence.

Amelia Roper's "Camberwell House" does have a strong structure and it's almost a three-act piece, really. An elderly woman describes the block of apartments in which she lives and the neighbours she meets on the stairs, and very gradually we learn that the relationships between these people are far more sinister than the cutesy-old-folks premise suggests. It's a satisfying piece of writing which, again, develops a particular character through its monological status.

Not that either of these works would be improved by the addition of other performers. They wouldn't be the same works at all so 'improvement' isn't a relevant term here. I was reminded a little of Abbey Theatre's Terminus and the way that so many people (inc. me) compared that excellent piece to a radio play. Does this detract from the theatrical experience? I guess that depends on what you want from theatre. Wearing a hat detracts from the hair-ruffling experience of a gentle autumn breeze, but hats can bring their own comforts too.

WHICH IS TO SAY: we are doing a whip-around to buy the mandrill a new peaked cap in recognition of its years of service. Also: When Will You Be Home? ends tonight at the Dog Theatre.

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