Left - Sara Cooper. Cover - Ryk Goddard.
This latest offering from Tasmanian Theatre Company consists of two one-act one handers. Sara Cooper stars in Partly it’s about love...Partly it’s about Massacre and then Ryk Goddard performs Andrew Corder Thinks Twice. According to the program notes Andrew Corder, a new work by Tasmanian playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer, was decided on first, and then TTC sought out a suitable companion piece. Partly it’s about love... is by Sydney playwright Fiona Sprott and debuted in 2002. Each play runs at an hour and the combination certainly gives the audience its money’s worth.
The plays complement each other in that each revolves around an idiosyncratic, modern Australian character. Where they differ is that Partly it’s about love... is more like a long monologue, nearly all the recollection of events that have already happened, while Andrew Corder is present tense action, with Andrew talking to people who are visible only to him (potentially awkward, these moments work beautifully here) or narrating his day as it unfolds. While we find Jezebel in her chaotic flat, the scene of her romantic battles, Andrew Corder moves between his home, work and his son’s house. So the scope of Partly it’s about love... is slightly narrower, yet both Andrew and Jezebel are constrained by a personal obsession.
For Jezebel the problem is, you guessed it, love. She can’t stop worry about her relationship and, specifically, how to exist within it without being changed, tamed or inconvenienced. She’s a gal who is used to having her own way and is not shy about admitting (at least within the confines of this theatrical confessional) that her fiancé often annoys the bejeezus out of her. She hates his mother, she hates his cat; she even resents him wanting to sleep in her bed. We don’t find out much about the lucky man – other than that he was married previously and that he’s easy going to the point of masochism – because Jezebel is more interested in herself than she is in anyone else. It’s all about her feelings, her body, her….butter. There’s a whole bit about her growing irritation with her beloved’s habit of leaving the butter out of the fridge and let’s just say it doesn’t end well for him. Jezebel is everywoman and then some and it’s fun to see a frankly self-centred woman on stage.
Cooper’s performance is as bold, brash and unflinching as the piece demands, as she struts around the stage looking glamorous in various states of dress. At times she seems a confident thirty-something and then, without warning, she becomes a mass of resentment and unexamined emotion. It’s a pity that the script never sinks to the depths of the twisted netherworld it hints at, settling for more of a Sex and the City vibe. Still, there are some strong moments, particularly the ending, where an unexpectedly subtle point is sensitively conveyed.
Andrew Corder is a 40-something man who’s bookish and tidy and, from the look of his apartment (a minimal brown and white set created by Robert Jarman), keen on design and comfortable living. An Australian male character who doesn’t care about sport or beer or bandying about macho slang with his mates! How refreshing. The play begins with a conceit similar to that used in the film Stranger Than Fiction, in which the mundane events of Andrew’s morning are narrated. Taking the notion a step further, it’s Andrew himself who narrates in the third person. This is a clever device, allowing the character to explains things that, technically, he should know nothing about. The story kicks into gear when, out of the blue, Andrew forms a psychic connection with a Palestinian man. Andrew knows the man’s thoughts, knows his problems, and can even speak in his voice. Having known and cared little about the situation in Gaza, he’s now having visions of a world that’s radically different from his own. He goes about his life, but he’s unnerved, not sleeping well.
It’s a strange premise, yet one that resonates. As individuals we may claim to care about calamities in other countries but how do we express that care? Is donating money a way to do it … or does sincere concern mean engaging the brain, and even the heart? Andrew approaches the problem with simplicity, at first reading some books on the subject. Then, finding that ‘too many facts’ get in the way, he begins his own investigations. Is his Palestinian friend here to tell him something about himself, to remind him of what he knows deep down but never thinks about? Maybe, but for most of the play he just causes trouble, such as provoking hilarious conversations with the only Jewish person Andrew knows, a guy at work. Protesting that he was ‘born in Adelaide,’ the poor fellow doesn’t seem to appreciate being interrogated on the situation in the Middle East by the well-meaning Andrew. The nice thing about these moments is that, although naïve, certainly, and ill-informed, Andrew is not unintelligent and so the debate is an interesting one.
In the climactic scene, feeling oppressed by his apparent delusions, by his unrewarding job, and by the yellow walls at his office (courtesy of a “Wellness Consultant”) Andrew begins to unravel. It’s then that he turns a corner and is free to be honest with himself. If all this sounds rather heavy and philosophical, well, it’s actually very funny stuff. Ryk Goddard is a pleasure in this role, light and playful, yet believable as a self-torturing middle class neurotic. My only reservation lies with the ending where, whether through the direction or some ambiguity in the script, the intent is unclear. It’s bittersweet, but I was left unsure as to whether the emphasis was on the bitter or on the sweet. This is an issue that I hope will be resolved, as this is a play that deserves to reach a wide audience. Andrew Corder Thinks Twice is a fine new work by a talented writer, realised here with style and confidence.
Tasmanian Theatre Company presents
DON’T THINK TWICE
A double bill event
Andrew Corder Thinks Twice
by Finegan Kruckemeyer
Partly It’s About Love… Partly It’s About Massacre
by Fiona Sprott
Directors Annette Downs and Charles Parkinson
Venue: Theatre Royal Backspace, Sackville Street, Hobart
Dates: May 27 – June 19, 2010
Duration: Approx 2.5 hours (including interval)
Bookings: Theatre Royal Box Office | www.tastheatre.com | (03) 62 33 22 99