Flatland | Class Act TheatreAs much as I am a supporter of the local theatre, if I’d had my handbag with me at Flatland tonight, I would have taken out my nail file/pen/lighter and tried to file/hack/burn my way through the wall and into the freedom of the streets. There was no way out. The Blue Room is cruel in that regard – there is no way out. The door you come in and out of is on the stage. There’s no pseudo subtle and apologetic slipping out with some faux excuse here, people.

So just in case you are like the audience I heard chatting after the show and you do not understand what the hell just happened in the last hour and a half as you were sitting on your backside watching…something…I’m going to tell you the general gist of Flatland as I understand it, because out of all the posters, the non existent program and the local newspaper advertorials none actually tell you what the play is about:

There are 4 people living in 5 flats (one is vacant) in the suburbs. One of them is a used sanitary napkin smelling, knicker stealing, wanking loser, one is a plumber, one is a Russian/Czech maybe prostitute and the other is a…well, she’s a skank. These people have an extraordinary array of problems. A cat is run over and its limp little body is thrown about the stage, one was raped by her father (funnily enough, it’s the skanky one), one has killed her father (I think?), one has girlfriend problems, and one steals used menstruation paraphernalia from women’s wheelie bins. Along come a mentally disabled individual. He is channelling the dead spirits of the cat, the father and god knows what else. The plumber kills the mentally disabled individual. As it turns out, they’re actually ALL ghosts, except for the plumber, who murdered them all in the first place.

“HUH?” I hear you say? “But Amanda, you don’t usually write such an in-depth description of the actually plot of a play, because you know we don’t want to know everything about it before we go!”

Yes, I know. But the truth is that Flatland doesn’t actually seem to have a real, true plot. There are no traditional aspects such as character drive and no normal, everyday structure or sense. Flatland is in a no-mans land between “we wanted to be cool and controversial”, “we wanted to have a go at black humour” and “we’ve not bothered”.

The thing is I was warned that the content of Flatland was controversial. So I was expecting something edgy and new. In truth, if you have even just a little bit of an open mind it’s not all that edgy at all. Some people do have strange sexual fetishes, some women will try to have sex with their plumber to shirk the charge and yes, of course there are people in the world with mental disabilities but they are not channelling dead people.

These things cannot be done partway (I’m speaking of style, not channelling dead people). If Class Act wanted to be controversial then it could have been taken much, much further – the gore, the sex, the humour, the sniffing of tampons all could have been upped 110% and completely blown our minds. It could have been rubbed in our faces and challenged our views on life, or it could have gone in the other direction and been made into a relaxed and somewhat lazy but fun romp that we can have a good and guilty belly laugh at. But the something in-between that Flatland is was in all honesty, quite boring.

The screams of the actor who was so not gracefully portraying the mentally disabled individual (and this is not my assumption of the character – mental disability is mentioned in the script – I got a little too hopeful at his first appearance and thought he might be a zombie) was so painfully loud that my ears bled and my brain exploded all over the walls of the theatre. If it had not ended when it did, I would have marched myself up there and told him to shut up. Please, please, please consider the size of the venue when carrying out such ridiculously useless things like screams that have nothing to do with the advancement of the plot in future. The smaller the venue is, the less you need to scream. Therefore, the less you pee off this usually charming reviewer.

Flatland is not necessarily a bad play – to read the script and interpret it for myself could be interesting – it’s just a slightly lazy attempt. More polishing and attention to details could work better for it and this could still have been done, very successfully, with very little cash. I found the most interesting part of the night was staring at what the lighting guy was doing – which was nothing. Understandably, actors can get tired as the season goes on, but it just needed more "Oomph!".

I did eventually find a poster for Flatland with an image and some info on it that made sense. It was on the back of the toilet door. 

Go see Flatland if you have the $20 to spare for a ticket. Take earplugs and some type of stress reducing agent – like one of those squishy balls. Or fill up at the bar beforehand.

There is however, one brilliant point about Flatland. It did get me writing a nice long review again after my long creativity rut. So I guess I owe Class Act a drink for that. I’ve never claimed to be a good writer, or a particularly polite one, but I do give credit where it’s due. Be nice – unlike myself and one other now infamous reviewer for a certain Perth newspaper – and go see Flatland. Class Act needs the money for new shows.

The Blue Room & Class Act Theatre present a World First
Written by Caroline Gopalkrishnan and Shirley Van Sanden

Venue: The Blue Room Studio | 53 James St, Northbridge
Dates: (Preview Tues 18) Wed 19 – Sat 22 Sept, Tue 25 – Sat 29 Sept, Tues 2 – 6 Oct
Times: All shows 7pm
Tickets: Full $20 / Conc. $15. Blue Room Members: $18 / $12
Bookings: 08 9227 7005

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