Left - Trushna Mahisuri and Jeffrey Jay Fowler. Cover - Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Cody Fern. Photos - Brad Serls
Within the walls of a movie theatre, four young staff members become embroiled in a nasty mire of racism, power and sexuality, culminating in violence. If this is DC Bloom’s first ever play, it blows my mind a little bit to think what he might come up with next. But subtle it is not. If perhaps you might say that the racially driven film Crash wears its heart on its sleeve, then this play undoubtedly wears its raging bile duct.
Alaska is the story of Frank. Frank is filled with hatred. Most of this manifests in racial discrimination and Frank’s abhorrence of non-white people, but extends to class, family and authority. He’s a real piece of work; a character you love to hate. After dropping out of university, the highly intelligent 24 year old goes to work in a cinema complex and, feeling the failure, continues to cook in his own bitter juices.
Also contained within the cineplex are Emma, a kind but slightly ignorant cashier who gets caught up in a dysfunctional sexual relationship with Frank, Chris, a young and naïve type with a crush on Frank and new employee Mamta, who I took to be Ugandan, but is possibly Pakistani or Indian, and who also demonstrates feelings for Frank before changing her tune substantially in the face of his overwhelming racism.
Frank’s at first confusingly warm feelings for Mamta quickly give way to anger and disgust, both with himself and her, but by this time his sexual attraction to her is unavoidable and a downward slide in his sanity begins, culminating in blood, rape and murder.
But I know what you’re thinking. If this guy’s such a jerk why does everybody fancy him? Well, ideally, it seems there should be a simmering sexuality at the heart of this character, an articulation and a persuasiveness that should be overwhelming. In this production, Jeffrey Jay Fowler as Frank certainly has his work cut out for him, with some success.
Fowler is certainly angry and he’s certainly articulate, but he’s a little bit sulky and doesn’t quite have the sexual charisma to pull it all together, which becomes problematic especially in the later revelations of Frank’s homicidal sexual fantasies.
He has the maniacally cold glare of a lone madman down-pat though, and I have to congratulate him on his delivery of the character’s sneering, bigoted and horrifically logical tirades.
Trushna Mahisuri is solid as Mamta, although she’s clearly a new performer and seems a little inhibited at times. Considering that this play is mostly centred on Frank’s treatment of Mamta and the rollercoaster of responses he illicits from her – from affection to violence, Mahisuri seems a bit too cool, calm and collected. This play is undoubtedly hard work, though, and she demonstrates great promise.
Michelle Francis turns in a respectable performance as Emma, although I can’t help but feel that the seductiveness she holds for Frank isn’t really made clear enough. She seems a bit cold where I would’ve thought it would be her earthy warmth and non-judgment that would attract him.
Of the four, I have to say that Cody Fern as Chris won my heart a little bit. His empathy and acceptance are well-realised and his geeky turn never crosses over into contrivance. I must add though, that my ears certainly pricked up at the revelation of cause of his sister’s eight-week coma and I have to wonder if there are any other dark quirks to Chris that this production has not yet picked up on.
On the whole, Michelle Sowden does well with a problematic work, but can’t escape the fact that this play is terribly British and I’m not sure that I can fully endorse her stated relevance to refugees in contemporary Australia. In any event, I think it’s a piece far more indicative of hatred in general and of the anger in human hearts – regardless of what outlets their rationales find for them to express it. Frank may be the most ostensibly hate-filled, but the others are all guilty of disturbing and insufficiently motivated acts. This doesn’t necessarily take away from the work, it just makes it more archetypal and requires that much more gravitas.
Because so much hangs on Frank’s sexual magnetism, its intermittent presence here makes the production slightly uneven, but when it hits home it is eloquent and powerful and worth seeing for its subversive protagonist-slash-antagonist and aphoristic dialogue.
The Blue Room and Hook In Eye Productions, with permission from Methuen Drama present
by DC Moore
Directed by Michelle Sowden
Venue: The Blue Room Studio, 53 James St Northbridge
Dates/Times: Tuesday 9 June – Saturday 27 June, 6:30pm Tuesday – Saturday, plus 9:15pm Friday & Saturday
Tickets: $22 / $15 concession. Blue Room members and groups 10+ $18 / $12 conc. Tuesdays all tix $10.
Bookings: 9227 7005 | www.blueroom.org.au