Monday, July 23, 2012

Everyman: God/Pool (no water)

OMG, as the kidz say. (Well, I assume they still say it. I really have no first-hand knowledge of what the kidz are up to these days.)

Let's deal with "God" first (always best to get him out of the way). One of the funniest things I've seen in ages, though the number of plants made me wonder how many of us had actually paid for tickets and how Everyman was going to manage on the pittance that represented.  Jarrad West hearkened back to his performance in "Musical of Musicals", giving us way too much information in the form of a leopard-print thong and a tiny tunic. I do love him in comic mode.  There was Duncan Ley, playing the straight man, in several senses of the word; Amy Dunham giving us a variety of flawless accents in hilarious cameos (including her famous party piece "bubbeleh" squirrel voice) and Euan Bowen, always funny and too rarely seen on stage these days.  And there's the wonderful Wayne Shepherd demonstrating Deus Ex machina in the most literal possible sense (he also created the elegant, funny and functional set).  The script wanders a lot, and what plot there is doesn't hang together in the slightest, but it's all so funny that nobody cares.  Most of the one-liners are Allens, but some are clearly Driver's, and all of them are crackers.  Haven't laughed so much in ages. Thank you, Everyman!

The second one-acter of the evening, "Pool (no water)" is, the origin of my opening "OMG", and is, simply, EXTRAORDINARY.  West and Dunham are joined by Steph Roberts and Zach Raffan in an incredibly tightly directed piece that is absolutely stunning.  Four friends go to visit the fifth of the group, who has succeeded in life while they have not - epitomised by her new swimming pool. Disaster strikes and the reactions and actions of the group thereafter drive the play.  It's billed as a black comedy, but it's more of a drama with some humour in it.

I'm really not sure how to describe this without giving too much away.  The plot is very dark, it's true, but I'm not sure I found it as "confronting" as reports made it out to be.  Possibly that's because I didn't relate to the characters enough to see myself in them - that's not to say they weren't believeable or convincing. They were utterly convincing, and the direction was quite extraordinary in giving us some stylised choreographing matched with acting that was at times disturbingly naturalistic (Amy Dunham in particular has a way of making you feel you're hearing her in a genuine conversation).  I think it is possibly more that I had read of Mark Ravenhill's piece as being of the same "In Yer Face" school as Sarah Keyes. And despite the fact that I'll go see pretty much anything, her "Blasted", is my benchmark for Theatre I Never Want To See - without any judgements of value or artistic merit, I simply don't think I could stomach it.  "Pool (no water)" contains some deep nastiness, but it doesn't enter into that territory.  I'm not worried that my own friends have this in them, but I have no trouble believing there are people who do.

What *was* confronting was the several minutes of full-frontal nudity from all of the characters - but even then, that's because this is Canberra, and these are people we know personally (though in my own case, fortunately, not well.  And, frankly, if I looked like Steph Roberts I'd have my kit off every chance I got).  This wouldn't have bothered me at all if the cast were complete strangers.

This is the third piece I've seen Zach Raffan in this year ("Two Plays" and "Speaking in Tongues" were the others) and I'm liking him more and more (having not liked at all his performance a couple of years ago in Rep's "Voyage Around My Father".)  He was lifted by the others, but he's also getting good at this.  The one moment that really jarred, though, was when he nipped off-stage for his trumpet and came back on to accompany some increasingly frenzied action with an accelerating William Tell Overture. I don't know whether it was director Duncan Ley or Raffan himself who couldn't resist the opportunity to use Raffan's trumpet - and no one would deny he is a first rate musician - but it was self-indulgent and it threw me out of the moment. Which I'll confess I resent, because I was deeply immersed, and it was a bit like being woken out of a deep sleep and then trying to resubmerge.

I know I'm not really explaining what makes this so amazing.  The direction is tight and clever, the energy and synergy of the cast is extrordinary and absolutely fearless, and the script never lags, at least until the surprisingly anodyne ending.  Props and lighting are used with an economy and effectiveness that are really brilliant.  You need to see this to get it.  Please do!

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