It would be wrong to say that ‘Love and Money’ is the best of the several drama’s written by Dennis Kelly, his work is so rich and varied, but it has to be up there.
It is an omission on the part of the production company, Shaman Productions, that the programme notes fail to acknowledge the playwright as the image magician that Kelly is. Whether it is through the deployment of characters in space and time or through the words they say Kelly’s craft is seen in his imagery, tight, resonant and defined. He is a master craftsman.
Since ‘Brendan’s Visit’, first produced by Etcetera Theatre in 1997 Kelly has had nine plays staged and each has given a strong indication of an exceptional developing talent.
Last week Sydney saw the New Theatre’s production of ‘After the End’ (BAC London; LaTheatre Companyhmere 2004) for a limited season. It exhibits some elements of contrivance and laboured effects but his later offerings are very much sharper and more incisive.
This production, staged at the small but very accommodating Old Fitzroy Hotel Theatre, in the hands of director, Steven Rassios, gives the play everything it deserves except the author’s credits. The brilliance of the offering, however, makes the oversight excusable since the play delivered on the playwright’s promise in spades.
It opens with a covert love affair and the admission of ‘an assisted death’; it ends where an earlier relationship began, in the glorious and triumphant expectation of hope. It is a play of betrayal, by the victim’s family, her husband and most especially the society that has squandered the truth that alone might have set her free.
Kelly is concerned with ‘aliens’. Not the ones from the other side but the misfits of society who still dare to hold on to a ‘certain hope’. Science may have engendered the same profane belief of infallibility, as did the clerics of religion. It has given to those who would wish for a more wondrous future a sense of being out of step and sidelined.
It is very topical with the recent highlight at the Sydney Writers Festival of Richard Dawkins (Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, Oxford University), the reasoning atheist. There is also the ongoing controversy involving Guillermo Gonzalez (Assoc Professor Iowa State University) over his Intelligent Design (ID) stance in ‘The Privileged Planet’. And then there is the phenomenon of ‘climate change’. Something that science can’t quite bring itself to admit it can’t really explain.
If ever there was a Gomorrah, it can be seen in today’s philosophy of ‘eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we surely die’.
In just such a place we find Jess, played superbly by Angela Hattersley. She holds the audience in the bitter cleft of agony and ecstasy. Jess, it seems wanted more because that, after all, was what David wanted, wasn’t it?
Her husband, David, on the other hand certainly wanted more but it was never going to be enough. In this production David is played by Bryce Youngman. He exhibits all the reserve required to keep the character’s options open but displays the necessary power to close them off when required. David is a man of our time, selfish, self centred and ultimately lost. He makes the Faustian contract without even understanding the currency it is written in.
But Kelly is always mindful that the pathway of persuasion is best travelled through fields of laughter and he and the assembled cast under Rassios manage to make the trek a riot even if it was dark.
There is a bitter sweet conversation between Debbie, played with an innocent hope by Beth Aubrey and Duncan, superbly portrayed by Christopher Stollery, still holding onto a remnant of that hope but desperately wanting to take something tangible home. It was a sheer delight in terms of pace and timing. Stollery and Aubrey also take on the roles of Jess’ father and Val, respectively.
Diana McLean as Beth’s mother and Sean Hall in the dual role of Paul and the Doctor also give solid performances.
The technical aspects of the staging were commendable. The set, designed by Luke Ede who must also be given credit for costuming, was frosty and impersonal as it was gradually filled with the detritus from the performance. Lighting by Paul Walton played a pivotal role as it followed the unravelling story around a very tight space. The area of attention oscillated across the stage until it finally coalesced in the central imagery of water.
When mixed with fire that water became the ‘God of Hell’ in Sam Shepherd’s play. Here, however, mixed with the blood of the innocent commuter, it combines in an unequivocal evocation of salvation.
It was a very fine cast in a very taught production of a wonderful piece of writing.
Shaman Productions present the Australian premiere of
Love and Money
by Dennis Kelly
Venue: The Old Fitzroy Theatre – Cnr Cathedral & Dowling Sts, Woolloomooloo
Season: 6th Sept – 6th Oct 2007
Times: Tuesday – Saturday @ 8pm & Sunday @ 5pm
Tickets: $20 Concession, $28 Adult, $34 Beer, Laksa & Show
Special: Cheap Tuesdays - $16 Adult, $24 Beer Laksa & Show
Bookings: (02) 9294 4296 or www.oldfitzroy.com.au/trs