(l-r) Daryl Ricketts, Emily Nisman & Stefan Taylor. Photo - Suzanne Opitz
There are so few positive things I can think of to say about La Mama’s opening show for 2009, The Dream Children, that it might be best to say as little as possible. Although the writer, Julia Britton, and director, Robert Chuter, are both prolific and award-winning Australian theatre practitioners, this show, I'm afraid, is probably not an example of their best work.
The Dream Children is running as part of Midsumma, Melbourne’s gay and lesbian festival. Essentially it’s about a professional, gay Melbourne couple who realise that, despite their successful artistic careers and their beautiful new house, what they really want in their lives is a child. After getting married in Vegas and trying to adopt legally without success, they turn to the internet for another way. This is how they find Nerine, Emily Nisman, a pregnant, unemployed teenager looking to sell her baby to the highest bidder. Steven, Stefan Taylor, and Terry, Daryl Ricketts, anxiously wait out her pregnancy and proudly take their new baby home. Their newfound domestic bliss is soon interrupted though when Nerine unexpectedly comes back into their lives.
What I found so troubling with The Dream Children is what seems to be an assumption by the writer that putting a homosexual couple into this story somehow makes it cutting-edge. That, and the fact that most of the 105 minute show is pure exposition. Rarely are we given the chance to feel something for the characters, and because the play seems confused about what it actually is (comedy, drama, or melodrama), it’s hard to find a way into the actual story itself. The scenes are extremely short, particularly in the first half, and strangely introduced with a ‘chapter heading’ and time frame, which breaks up any flow and sense of character we may have garnered from the outset. One of the challenges of writing and directing for theatre is to find inventive and creative ways of moving between scenes and plot points and unfortunately, for me, this way was not successful.
The use of a TV on-stage showing original recorded footage is vastly overdone and simply detracts from the story. The footage of Steven, a successful A-type TV personality, frolicking naked on the beach seems extremely out of step with the initial development of the character, and is completely redundant to the story. So much of what these two professional, supposedly intelligent men do in order to procure a baby is just too ridiculous and out of character for even an inkling of a suspension of disbelief.
The play is in desperate need of a good editor/dramaturge. Amongst the rapid-fire scene changes there are long, meandering scenes of pure pointlessness, and one too many clichés for what should be a modern take on an age-old issue. The actors are clearly struggling to maintain their energy levels through these rambling phone conversations and dinner discussions that do nothing in terms of either plot or story.
The inflexible lounge-room setting, which simply gets in the way during the many scenes not set in the couples' apartment, and the unimaginative lighting cripple any possibility of inventive set changes for the myriad of different scenes. The cast do a fairly admirable job under difficult circumstances. Ricketts gains momentum as the play progresses and offers us some truthful moments towards the end, but, due to the failings of the production as a whole, it’s too little too late I’m afraid.
THE DREAM CHILDREN
Written by Julia Britton
Directed by Robert Chuter
Venue: Carlton Courthouse | 349 Drummond Street, Carlton
Dates: 17 January - 7 February, 2009
Times: Wednesday - Saturday @ 8.00pm; Sunday @ 6.30pm
Tickets: $25.00 - $20.00