Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reviews: Le Garcon Neurotique; The Suicide Show


By Joshua Cameron.

Back in the day I used to get fired from hospitality jobs on a weekly basis. I actually fired myself on one occasion after I saw how much damage I was doing to the business. I think my manner could charitably have been described as ‘surly and resentful’ which I still think is pretty acceptable for wait staff, but when my utter lack of skills became obvious even to me I had to apologise to the boss and tell them I wasn’t what they were looking for. The place was a silver service restaurant in Carlton North that I’d somehow fudged my way into, and on my first night I was handed a 10
0-year-old bottle of wine that a family had been saving for a special occasion and finally wanted to break out for some celebration. I stood in the kitchen and realised I had never opened a bottle of wine before, but figured hey, how hard could it be. You put the curly metal thing in one end and then the plonk comes out. As I stood pouring it into the straight-backed patriarchs glass I marvelled at the little brown corky bits that were bobbing into the dark red liquid. I responded in the way any idiot would and poured everyone else a glass then walked off to the kitchen. When I served this same family a plate of osso bucco and the meal went sliding off the plate onto the table, though, I figured it was time to end the reputational abuse I was causing this restaurant. It was that or pretend that there was a hidden camera somewhere.

In short, I was worried early on that Joshua Cameron’s one-man show would be just another self-indulgent “my sorry misadventures in hospitality” story, but if you’ve stuck with this review so far then you’ll easily have the stamina to get past that initial concern and make it to the real stuff this piece is made of: a rich narrative journey combining misanthropy and self-realisation, autobiography and humorous whimsy, sharp writing and a strong physical performance. Cameron takes us through a night in a city cocktail bar populated by smug yuppies, scary theatre queens and cheap tourists; his co-staff are worse. But rather than simply scoring gags by putting down others, Cameron’s beleaguered character slowly begins to himself seem quite a judgemental and messed up piece of work, and by unsettling our sympathies in this way he develops a healthy complexity to what could otherwise be a fairly familiar and undergraduate theatrical scenario.

It’s not revolutionary stuff but it’s full of instantly recognisable characters who are given unexpected depth, or at least revealed as something more than a snap judgement would allow for. It’s like curling a lip at the neighbouring table’s coarse and boisterous behaviour and then wondering why you’d begrudge someone their right to revelry when you’ve no idea of their circumstances. They might be dickheads, but are you any better for writing them off after half a minute? Then again, they don’t need to shove their enjoyment in your miserable face, do they? Gah. Get me another drink.

Note: I managed to work out what bar Cameron had worked at during the show. I was particularly proud of that.

Until Oct 10 at the Dog Theatre.


By a Bit of Argy Bargy.

It should have gone differently, simple as that.

I’ve known a lot of people who’ve committed suicide and I know the conventions through which suicide is discussed in this country – the unofficial media guidelines of reportage, its horrible use as a convenient device of narrative resolution in fiction and film, and the awkward, groping language employed by those it affects directly. The Suicide Show attempts to address male suicide in Australia via the accessible forms of cabaret, comedy and music, but it doesn’t really use these entry points to go beyond a superficial admission that yes, it happens.

Songs about death, a scene of men’s inability to truly hear other men’s pain, and a few rare theatrical moments don’t really add up to the work this piece promises. It’s a tough topic to talk about but I guess I expected The Suicide Show to talk about it more, rather than slip back into cover songs and silence. The team involved are all first rate and certainly up to the task, and the show’s delivery is itself nothing short of superb. But why that silence at the heart of it all?

Perhaps, though, suicide is for most people an existential void, a nothing, and as Wittgenstein put it "a nothing is as good as a something about which nothing can be said". ‘Nuff said?

Until Oct 10 at BlackBox, the Arts Centre.

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