Part of the Midsumma Festival, Searching for Comets is a four-hander, written by Melbourne playwright Cerise de Gelder and directed by Beth Child. Intertwining narratives abound, many revolving around an antique telescope, in a complex story of the lives and loves of a collection of women. The play contains several simultaneous stories and swaps between different time periods frequently. With little set and prop changes, the cast do well to keep this multi-faceted play coherent and engaging.
There’s Renae (Ruth Katerelos), a journalist for a local paper who dreams of being a novelist and looks for love in all the wrong places. Cass (Madeleine Swain), a married woman who loses a daughter and ultimately finds happiness in a lesbian relationship with Ruth. Other peripheral, but equally important characters, including a marriage celebrant, ex-girlfriends and old school friends contribute to the overlapping stories and are all played by Fleur Dean and Caroline Lloyd.
There is something endearing and redeeming to be found in all the characters, but what lets Searching for Comets down is that there is far too much going on, story-wise, and too little exploration of the emotional implications of so many actions. And these are major actions - Cass loses a daughter in a train accident. Cass and Renae go through serious issues that would deeply affect any loving relationship, including becoming very wealthy (through the sale of the telescope) and undergoing huge career changes. There is also losing a husband to drug addiction, Cass and Renae having a child, and a marriage celebrant who doesn’t believe in marriage.
None of these topics are adequately explored. With the play cruising along at such a rollicking pace, the dialogue goes for humour (some very clichéd) and one-dimensional reactions. Searching for Comets would be a stronger play if it had less action and more realistic analysis and exploration of the many events.
This is not to say that Searching for Comets is not entertaining. It harbors some great moments within and its two hour running time flies by.
Kudos to the cast for their commitment to the work and the production team for creating an intimate theatrical environment in a challenging space at Trades Hall.
Searching for Comets
by Cerise de Gelder
Venue: Old Council Chambers, Trades Hall | 54 Victoria Street, Carlton South
Dates: Wednesday, 30th January – Sunday, 17th February, 2008
Times: Wednesdays – Saturdays @ 8.00pm & Sundays @ 5pm
Tickets: $24/18 $20 groups of ten or more.