Bug | Spotty Fellow ProductionsHelen Doig and Dean McAskil. Photo - Nigel Etherington

This is not a play for the fainthearted. Neither is it for those who wish to see something intelligent, humorous or witty.

Bug, written by Tracy Letts, takes place in a seedy American motel room, home of no hoper Agnes (Helen Doig). She befriends Peter (Dean McAskil), a gulf war veteran, and together they spiral into a drug fuelled paranoid relationship, believing that bugs have invaded their skin and their room. What follows is a harsh, at times confronting view on two people who have lost rationalism and resort to extreme measures.

This production directed by Jo Marsh is slow paced, and I was unmoved at what should be a powerful look at mania. The dialogue is stilted, although it’s hard to tell if it is the script or the actors making it so. The American accents, realistic but hard to understand at times; help generate a slow moving, sluggish drawl. These are pathetic characters in trailer trash style, and difficult to like.

Whilst I thought Doig as Agnes captured some of the desperation towards the end, the overall portrayal of the character was of someone who didn’t care or had given up. The loss of her son in the past seems merely a side issue in this production. Regardless if this is dictated in the script, it doesn’t make for good theatre. Ian Toyne as Goss, Agnes ex husband recently released from prison had the most emotive moments. His short moments on stage veering between pretend nice and outright nasty and violent were the more memorable events during the show. Jo Wyndham as Agnes friend RC, and Igor Sas as Dr Sweet round out the cast. These two incidental characters do little for the production except move the plot forward. Although Dr Sweet is the catalyst for the final moments, he is portrayed as a repulsive stereotypical bad doctor in a performance that made me cringe.

The dialogue is underpinned by constant noise; cars going by, the intermittent air-conditioner or helicopters hovering overhead. Designed by Steven Hearne the sound track injects a shade of realism, complemented via the excellent set by Brad Reid. The set is full of the little details – a real fridge (with light), smoke alarm, bathroom with toilet, light switches and so forth. It looks like a standard motel except it is disintegrating much like the characters.

In a theatre, you are restricted in location and realism, and the amount of effects you can produce. For this reason, the ending of Bug fell completely flat. A recent movie version directed by The Exorcist’s William Friedkin and starring Ashley Judd, should have a much more effective conclusion.

I came away with a sense of grubbiness, but no pity for these people. I expect Bug could be a hard hitting look at war veterans, drug users and paranoia, but here it was limp and unmoving.

Spotty Fellow Productions presents
by Tracy Letts

Venue: Subiaco Arts Centre
Dates: August 3 – 18
Preview: 2 August @ 8:00pm
Times: 3 & 4 August @ 8:00pm; 7 - 11 August @ 8:00pm; 14 - 18 August @ 8:00pm
Bookings: BOCS 9484 1133

WARNING! This theatrical performance contains extreme language, violence, smoking, drug use, and full frontal nudity

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