|All The Rage | Tamarama Rock Surfers|
|Written by lloyd bradford (brad) syke|
|Friday, 29 June 2012 07:50|
Left – Scarlet McGlynn and Duncan Fellows
Northern Ireland is a confusing place. During my not inconsiderable lifetime, it always has been. It's easy when a conflict has only two sides, but so many seem to be multifaceted.
All The Rage by John A. D. Fraser, bears the catchphrase 'give war a chance'. Intriguing, yes.
Fraser is a Scot by birth, but by dint of this play, sets himself up as something of an expert, or provocative theorist, on modern Irish history.
A bare stage. A white wall. Two white doors. Through one, three men explode. One is the boss. One is stereotypically (and, after a while, rather tediously) bog-stupid. The third is blindfolded. And was that a woman disappearing through the other door? Yes, intriguing.
Despite peace having broken out and substantially held for going on two decades now, Fraser still sees Northern Ireland as something of a time-bomb. He seems to suspect the IRA of being dormant, but still ambitious and ready to mobilise at short notice. And so, in this punchy, graphically violent and rampantly (but not entirely consistently) funny work, he predicates a horrible possibility, that echoes terrorism in Munich many years ago: an attack on the London Olympics. It's a visceral idea, given even more electricity by imminence.
The only problem is in buying the idea, rationally. I'm neither a Scot, by birth, nor any kind of expert on modern Irish history. Nonetheless, as I understand it, consensus seems to indicate that, while the IRA, in one guise or another, isn't a spent force, and while police chiefs concede a credible threat from that direction to the Games, the real threat in Ireland (and outside it) is from terror cells that have little or nothing to do with the IRA and everything to do with a new, informal, dismembered, Al Qaeda-like, patchy 'network' of dissidents and merely disgruntled and angry individuals, cobbled into small groups. If anything, it's more like the pointy end of the punk movement during and reacting to Thatcherism.
In other words, Fraser seems to be something of a lonely conspiracy theorist. But it's an interesting dramatic proposal, pregnant with possibilities. Towards the end of the play, these are realised, as what's little more than a diffuse and disparate comedy sketch ramps into a full-on confrontation, in which alliances and the lack of them are exposed. Inasmuch, it's a steely study of trust, loyalty, friendship, honour, pride, power and even love.
But to get there we have to be patient (even if the whole shebang doesn't run past an hour). We have to sit through that comedy sketch. At first, it's engaging. Much of it is taut; from writing, directing and acting standpoints. But after a while, we start to wonder where its going and gag on the gags, which become increasingly try-hard (and fail). The prospect of three hard men about to commit a crime against humanity chorusing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, however, is classically absurd comic genius. And the Dick Van Dyke thread woven through the subsequent fabric of the play is tidy, too.
Notwithstanding some lacking in the diction department, exacerbated by very good, but sometimes almost impenetrably thick accents, performances are excellent: principal among them, Laurence Coy, as he who calls the shots, the improbably monikered Skin The Goat (sounds like Get Smart, or something); Duncan Fellows as bomb chef, The Baker; Xavier Coy, as Boyler, the dimwitted offsider.
In the end, it's a better production than play. Even in the short space of an hour or so, Fraser wanders all over the page and there's too much insecurity and identity crisis lurking behind the lines. And so, it blows up in his face, as much as ours.
Tamarama Rock Surfers Theatre Company presents
ALL THE RAGE
by John AD Fraser
Directed by Leland Kean
Venue: The Old Fitzroy Theatre | Cnr Cathedral & Dowling Sts, Woolloomooloo
Dates: 20 June – 14 July, 2012
Times: Tues – Sat 8pm | Sun 5pm
Tickets: $33 – $25
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