Set in the world of corporate collapses, mergers and ruthless take-overs Dead Cats Don’t Bounce, directed by Lewis Jones, takes us from Paris to Brisbane, tracing the emotional and financial erosion of Ben (Robert Coleby) and Martin (Steven Grives), lifelong friends and partners in Suncollect, the empire they have built together. Suncollect is ripe for takeover in the wake of Ben’s mid-life crisis brought on by the death of old university friend and fellow world traveler Harry (Chris Betts).
Confined to a nursing home since a disastrous backpacking holiday around France, Harry has been out of sight but never out of the minds of Ben and Martin, a constant reminder of doomed love and youthful rivalries gone awry. In death Harry reaches back into the past reawakening old grievances and rekindling memories of art student Claire (Helen Howard), the one who got away.
Simon Alroe’s script, inspired if you will, by the stories behind the collapse of giants such as HIH and Enron should have been sharper than it is. All the elements of a cutting black comedy are present and accounted for but opportunities to exploit them are missed. Ben’s identity crisis is at the centre of the script but it gets lost and loses significance within the meandering timeline of the script.
I was particularly frustrated that Ben’s epiphany, his “light bulb” moment in a Paris nightclub, was ruined by some totally unnecessary explanatory narration spoken directly to the audience. Properly staged the moment would have spoken for itself. It’s the key moment of the piece and its failure lessens the impact of Ben’s later “awakening”.
Lewis Jones’s direction keeps the pace brisk. The seasoned cast does their best with underwritten roles.
As Ben, the wonderful Robert Coleby brings plenty of soul and, as the saying goes, he has gravitas up the wazoo. Gravel-voiced Chris Betts is given little to do as sacrificial lamb Harry. Helen Howard charms as the sexually and emotionally adventurous Claire.
Steven Grives as Martin gives the standout performance of the piece. He embraces the unsentimental and rascally Martin with an invigorating brio much needed in a tale of so many lost people.
Dead Cats Don’t Bounce has so much going for it and I wanted so much to like it more than I did. Simon Alroe is a writer of obvious talent and the cast are a blessing but the production as a whole felt as though it had not been work-shopped aggressively enough. It would be interesting to see this piece again in a few years as there’s plenty of potential there.
Hot Tin Roof Productions present
Dead Cats Don't Bounce
by Simon Alroe
Directed by Lewis Jones
Venue: Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
Dates: 17 to 28 February 2009
Price: $41.00 to $51.00 (inc. fees)
Bookings: qtix on 136 246
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