THEA406 Directing Season: ON THE EDGE
Reviewed by Michael Boyes
Everything is Going to be Just Fine!
Written by Roger Walter, directed by Owen
Agenda is a powerful medium, and often virtuous. Perhaps in this way Everything is Going to be Just Fine! excels; our director Owen (all publicity chummily denotes the directors by first name only) has something to say and something really quite valid.
Roger Walter’s Everything is Going to be Just Fine by page and poster sounds, for lack of a better word, awful. Walter’s hallmark of “middle-class ritual” engenders a tale of love and betrayal ‘mongst a bundle of Coro St wannabes. So imagine my surprise when the action begins and it is not the show the poster proclaims itself to be!
Three gentlemen (Paul Waggot, Sam Hallahan and Simon Haren) inform the audience that an atrocity has been performed: one of their colleagues, a fellow actor, has, mid-performance, been physically assaulted by an enraged audience member who has been detained for execution pending confirmation (the ‘stage’ on which this crime is performed is a small cream dais, neatly decorated, surrounded by the black floor, which our actors occupy). Anyone who can voluntarily bear witness to this man’s heinous crimes shall subsequently escape the status of “rotten egg”, and be doing normality and ordinariness a favour by sending the fellow to his death. Failure to comply shall result in the democratically elected consequence for rotten egg behaviour—an egg shaped branding on the right upper arm.
The performances are executed with a never ending slick-suited vigour, each actor oscillating between sincere entreaty and violent harpooning. One could only have asked for greater variation in the characterisation. Whilst raw energy carried the show, character similarities led every attempt to be predictable, ultimately resulting in a high-octane lecture on conservatism. The greatest change occurred when the first publicly penalised rotten egg (Theo Taylor) is dragged on stage and left to denounce his rotten egg-ness, lending a sense of disgrace to colour the otherwise comical atmosphere.
The Roger Hall gag (Latte to go! = Four Flat Whites in Italy) coupled with a text on middle class morality and conservatism seems either an attack on the playwright or the issues. If it is the former I find it petty finger pointing, the latter and it is petty mockery. How the two are exactly related I cannot entirely make out, and one gets the sense that anything pertaining to the conservative demographic is cause for disdain.
Written by Anton Chekhov, directed by ‘Nate’
By Chekhov’s own admission The Bear was not his greatest work, yet it displays many of the traits that define his later success, namely – in simplistic terms – the possession of money (who has it/who has not) and love (who is in it/is not).
Popova (Maggie White) is the widow of an unfaithful husband, determined to live chaste in order to prove her everlasting devotion to his memory. Smirnov (Tom Kereama), a wealthy merchant nearing bankruptcy, has come to collect the debts of Popova’s deceased spouse. Popova has no pleasure in company whilst Smirnov has a powerful disdain for women. Luka the maid (Jessica Coppell) looks on as passions abound.
Popova clearly has little sorrow at the loss of her husband; extended glares into his portrait coupled with her melodramatic resignation to spinsterhood suggest spite masquerading as grief. White’s Popova is successfully rendered as a whimsical, lonely aristocrat who struggles to keep her staff in check, yet contains startling force when her domestic authority is challenged. Kereama’s Smirnov and Coppell’s Luka, however, suffer from over dramatisation that forces both actors to embody thinly veiled caricatures, their larger-than-life performances weakening an already implausible scenario.
The stage is decked out in furnishings of cardboard, including a pair of settees, a coffee table, bookshelf and a large tapestry draping the farthest wall, itself intersected by a screen for projections (a variety of images and texts that illicit sub-textual puns). Despite the inherent novelty of an all-cardboard tea set, and the unanticipated humorous images that appeared and disappeared during the show, both design elements left me questioning their necessity.
If Nate’s intent was a romantic romp into the territory of vaudeville, I’m afraid he may have missed the mark and landed on the conspicuous side of farce.