Unsettling, because nothing much happens. It's a two-handed absurdist comedy that left this reviewer alternatively grasping for meaning and falling off his chair. Anna Tregloan's magnificently bare set has only a few iconic distractions (a wading pool, a beach ball, a chaise lounge), leaving plenty of space, both physical and intellectual, for the meandering dialogue and comic stage business of its actors, Paul Lum and Patrick Moffat.
And it is hilarious. Raimondo Cortese has fashioned a one-act gem that explores universal themes of leisure and idleness in the environment of Western material abundance. But he frames these topics in the mundane and everyday conversational exchanges of his two actors, leaving them tremendous latitude to draw out the hidden threads and subterranean meaning of this very clever script.
The result is a series of bracing, even disturbing dialogues about the modern condition, leavened with generous dashes of humour. It's always tempting fate to compare playwrights to modern masters, but this script travels comfortably in the tradition of Pinter, Becket or Ionescu.
Adriano Cortese obviously knows a thing or two about his brother's scripts. This production is beautifully staged, produced and acted, and the craft and attention to detail leave little to chance. In particular, he has allowed (or perhaps instructed) his actors to draw out the maximum tension in their banal little lines, and they respond brilliantly, milking every moment for its comic appeal.
Paul Lum and Patrick Moffat are fantastically dead-pan as a kind of geographically displaced Vladimir and Estragon of the resort industry. Playing with words and playing further with the myriad comic opportunities of the set, they wander through the play at a stately, even soporific pace. At one stage, a beach ball is smashed into the audience, striking one unsuspecting member square in the face. He didn't seem to mind. Scene changes are marked with baroque singing, consummately executed. In the background - but far from an after-thought – can be heard David Franzke's clever, detailed sound design.
At the end of the play, we watch a video of a ship slowly morph across the horizon. It's an appropriate non-ending for a marvellous digression with a superb cast. Holiday is a work of strange comic eloquence, and all the more worthy of recommendation because of it.
Ranters Theatre presents
by Raimondo Cortese
Venue: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall
Dates: Thursday 9 August to Wednesday 22 August
Times: Tue – Sat at 7:30pm
Preview: Wednesday 8 August at 7:30pm
Matinee: Saturday 18 August at 4:00pm
Tickets: Full $28, Conc $18, Preview $10
Bookings: easytix.com.au/artshouse or (03) 9639 009