Left - Jennifer Innes, James Cook, Brenda McKinty and Paul Knox. Photo - Yolene Dabreteau
Ah television, how you robbed us of our senses. Long gone are the days where we could concentrate intently on one thing alone and still be sated, a time when ‘secondary media’ was an alien concept and not a market with a demographic. The humble play might not suffice to slake the media thirst of most these days, but it’s refreshing to see that the wonderfully complex satisfaction claimed by enjoying a good night before the stage is still to be had for the intrepid theatre goer. None more so than when attending PMD’s production of cult misogynist Sarah Kane’s Crave at Chapel Off Chapel, although there is one rule that needs observing:
You. Must. Pay. Attention.
If that sounds demanding on the audience’s part, then that’s exactly what it is, since this isn’t exactly the background noise of daytime TV during a daily bout of ironing. Disobedient viewers choosing rather to drift off lackadaisically into a hazy reverie than keep a keen eye on proceedings would surely be shaken rudely into focus by the piercing screams that punctuate the dialogue or the prosaically uttered declarations like ‘I’m not a rapist… I’m a pedophile’. Much better then, to immerse oneself in the action, as confronting and uncomfortable as it may be, to glean as much understanding and validation from the fractured, spasmodic text as possible.
Crave is a whirling, fragmented piece of theatre spoken by 4 disenchanted voices who occasionally retain autonomy but often blur almost into a collective consciousness before splintering again into seemingly unrelated monologue; a series of soliloquy that cleverly weave in and out of each other’s direction. Owner of the dramatic scream, Nada Cordasic, plays voice ‘C’, not that any of the characters (if that is an appropriate description) are ever named or even alluded to as being part of the action, and seems to be the focal point of the production. Where the text indicates no pointers as to a leading protagonist, Cordasic’s stage position and the physical interaction between herself and the other players lends ‘C’ a more prominent role, the other voices often seeming to be mere fragments of her imagination or perhaps other detainees in a mental institution, something we ponder as we try to root this play in a physical location to better accelerate our understanding.
And yet, attempting to rationalise the play in any literal sense is futile since it is the ambiguous, meandering nature of the 4 voices that allows it to become such a powerful work. On a small stage with only chairs as props and surrounded by walls of mirrors, there is no escape route for any of the forlorn figures to crawl away into, leaving them only to project their desperation harrowingly onto the audience. The quartet of disparate but universally paranoid monologues is bound by a theme of pessimism and betrayal which emerges slowly and increasingly as they begin to take form as individual characters.
Dipping in and out of extended rational speech and random, controversial outbursts, the play is a swirling mass of intensifying frustration and heartbreaking despair that intermittently swarms into focus to ensconce a narrative briefly between the characters, but never fully crystallises before falling away again into shards of incongruent mutterings. As confronting to behold as it is to comprehend, for the avid viewer there is a wealth of delights to garner from the action, albeit at the price of some serious concentration.
PMD Productions presents
by Sarah Kane
Directed by Paul Knox
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel | 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Dates: 19 August - 4 September, 2010
Times: Wed - Sat 8pm, Sunday 6pm, 2pm Matinee Sat 28 August
Duration: One hour no interval
Bookings: (03) 8290 7000 | www.stonnington.vic.gov.au/chapel