|The Haunting of Daniel Gartrell | Bardic Productions|
|Written by Jodi McAlister|
|Friday, 05 August 2011 15:50|
The Haunting of Daniel Gartrell was not a play about anything universal. It was a very small, contained story, driven by character rather than plot or overarching themes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this kind of drama – a good story is enough to make good theatre – and in places, this play realised its (substantial) potential. However, in the end, it was very hard to determine what point The Haunting of Daniel Gartrell was trying to make, and although there were flashes of brilliance, both the script and the acting were sadly one-note.
The Haunting of Daniel Gartrell was a drama about an aging bush poet, his daughter, and the actor portraying him in an upcoming film. At the beginning of the play, Joshua Morton, who played actor Craig Castevich, seemed massively overmatched by Mark Sheridan, who played poet Daniel Gartrell. Sheridan’s performance in the earlier scenes was nuanced and poignant, the character of Gartrell overpowering the stage, making Morton’s Castevich pale in comparison. (To be fair, some of this was probably intentional – the green young actor completely overawed by the man he is supposed to emulate). Sheridan has great physical presence onstage and in his scenes with Morton’s character, he showed this to great advantage.
However, both Sheridan’s performance and the writing let the character down in the second half of the play. The introduction of the poet’s daughter Sarah enervated the character of Castevich but sidelined the character of Gartrell, and the further introduction of a gun (albeit unused) felt like a clumsy attempt to up the ante when words would have done – particularly as this is a play about a wordsmith. Like the actor playing her father, Elisabeth Tuilekutu started off fantastically as Sarah, but deteriorated over the course of the play – her underplayed performance was perfect at first but became awkward towards the end. The fact that all three performances were inconsistent over the course of the play is testament to the fact that more direction was needed to make the performances more a) consistent and b) complex.
Reg Cribb’s writing, particularly his writing of the character of Daniel Gartrell, was fantastic in some parts, but flagrantly broke the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule in others. The three characters were sharply drawn – Cribb definitely has a skill for characterisation – but I felt like they were prone to unnecessary tangents, particularly the character of Sarah. The play didn’t pretend to address any major overarching issues (and it was under no obligation to) but I felt like the script didn’t know what it was about, didn’t know what point it was trying to make.
However, the design was excellent: the first thing that I noticed walking into the theatre was the smell of old books, that sweet, almost rotting smell, and that was perfect for the scene (the study of aging, decrepit poet Gartrell). There is no one credited in the program as a set designer, but whoever it was, they did a great job. The set was almost tactile, immersing the audience in the experience, engaging not just the eyes but all the senses.
Overall, I was not quite sure what to make of The Haunting of Daniel Gartrell. The writing was sharp in parts but flabby in others. The acting was brilliant in some sections but tedious at other times. It was a character-driven play but didn’t seem to make any kind of satisfying conclusion. In several different arenas, this play was inconsistent, and in the end, this made it distinctly average.
Bardic Productions in association with Tamarama Rock Surfers present
The Haunting of Daniel Gartrell
by Reg Cribb
Director Jacqueline Cosgrove
Venue: The Old Fitzroy Theatre | cnr Cathedral and Dowling Streets, Woolloomooloo
Dates: 4 August – 3 September, 2011
Times: Tuesday – Saturday 8pm, Sunday 5pm
Tickets: $33 Full, $25 Concession, $40 Beer, Laksa and Show
Bookings: www.rocksurfers.org | 02 8019 0282
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