Set in a fictional coastal country town, The Web is about Travis, a headstrong and extrovert teenager, who befriends the lonely and shy Fred, agreeing to help him with his Social Studies assignment. On the surface, Travis’s idea for an assignment about rural isolation and the effect cyberspace ‘friends’ can have sounds like a good idea. Regrettably it triggers a chain of events that ends with betrayal, deception, exposed secrets and a vicious attack.
Bryan Woltjen’s abstract set aptly sets the scene. Rusty sheets of corrugated metal form semi circular walls, encompassing a raised area centre stage backed by oversized fencing and a sheep ramp. The corners are sharp and unfinished. Martin Kinnane’s lighting design complements the set well, the corrugated walls lighting up with tiny lights and powerlines to reflect the isolated rural setting.
Russell Goldsmith’s sound design provides the undercurrent of emotion that takes this production from good to great. A continuous soundtrack including ambient sounds (e.g. the ocean) and atmospheric “emotive” sounds (think of an unsettling low hum) is interspersed with snippets of current pop songs. Goldsmith was recently nominated for a Tony award for his sound design on Exit the King, and his talent at capturing the essence of a play, its mood and setting, is definitely on show in this production.
The aspect that lets the play down somewhat is the inconsistency between the performers. Igor Sas as the Sergeant lacked depth and emotion, and I found Susan Priors Ivy, Fred’s mother, unreliable and unbelievable. From where I was seated, Prior appeared closer in age to her son than the 35 year old “downtrodden widow” she made out to be. Amanda Woodhams as Susan, Fred’s internet friend, was suitably chirpy and emotive in what was essentially a two dimensional character (she never physically interacts with anyone).
Thankfully, the performances of the two male “leads”, Robin Goldsworthy as Fred and Akos Armont as Travis just about made up for the inconsistency of the others. Black Swan newcomer Goldsworthy has perfected the tortured teenager act, alone and lonely, hating himself and those around him. His reasons for his actions were beautifully executed, without being overly dramatic.
For me however, Akos Armont, a newcomer to the Perth theatre scene and a recent graduate of NIDA, stole the show. Armont’s portrayal of Travis is stunning and one of the best performances I have seen all year. From his opening monologue, when he asks the audience to make up their own minds if he is a boy or a man, Armont manages to make Travis both likeable and despicable. He shows Travis is capable of horrible acts and yet tragically lonely and longing for love, willing to deceive people in order to get it. The level of deception and lies that Travis implements to achieve the result he wants is scary, and yet in today’s age, depressingly realistic.
The strength of the performance lies in Mulvany’s writing, although at almost 3 hours this production could do with some editing. The lines are beautifully structured and emotive, and Schmitz has done a good job bringing this play to the stage for the first time. Overall this was a great performance, one that leaves you thinking and wondering who those people you know online really are.
Black Swan State Theatre Company in association with HotHouse Theatre present
by Kate Mulvany
Director Marcelle Schmitz
Venue: Playhouse Theatre | 3 Pier Street, Perth
Dates: 26 September – 11 October 2009
Tickets: Standard $48, Concession $40, Groups 8+ $38 (plus 1 free ticket for every 10 tickets purchased), Previews $38, Students $20
Bookings: BOCS Ticketing, ph (08) 9484 1133, Groups 8+ ph (08) 9321 6831, www.bocsticketing.com.au