THEA406 Directing Season: ON THE EDGE

by / 25/07/12

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.

Ultimately the show suffers from a joke made in ill taste, a lack-lustre preach to the proverbial choir.

 

The Bear

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.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Owen Baxendale says:

    Hi Michael,

    The first play performed during Season One of ‘On the Edge’ was, in fact, ‘Yesterday an Incident Occurred’, by Mark Ravenhill. The pre-show publicity and post-performance information displayed in the foyer indicated this, while the poster and information on display in the foyer prior to the show and the material in the programme that you refer to were part of the performance (that is, part of the show that was ‘cancelled’ in the play that was actually performed). Roger Walter, and the play ‘Everything is Going to be Just Fine’, are fictitious, part of the frame within which ‘Yesterday an Incident Occurred’ was performed. Please could you change the name of the play and director at the beginning of your review to reflect this?

    Thanks,

    Owen

  2. Michael B says:

    Kia ora! The adjustment shall be made asap, love. Yes, I had tried to discover the text’s formal name, but it somehow alluded me. Tell me, is the premise of the cancelled performance given in the play-proper? Namely, is Roger Walter part of the fictitious conceit supplied by the text itself, or had you subverted an anonymous cancellation into manisfest ‘everything is going to be just fine’? If it is the former then I mightily apologise for any grotesque misinterpretation, and the subsequent reprimand.

  3. Owen Baxendale says:

    Hi Michael,

    The premise of the cancelled performance is implied throughout the text of “Yesterday an Incident Occurred”; however both the playwright Roger Walter and the play “Everything is Going to Be Just Fine” were invented by me as a means of extending this cancelled-play conceit further, so your latter supposition is correct. For the record, any critique of Roger Hall or the content and world-view of his plays that the poster and programme implied was secondary to the parodying of the earnest and rather dire kind of programme note you could expect to read in the context of an Honours directing performance. The main purpose of ‘Everything is Going to be Just Fine!” was, as you rightly perceived, to be incredibly naff looking-and-sounding.

    Cheers,

    Owen