Many of us may cringe at the word Eisteddfod, from childhood memories of the excitement, anticipation, elation and letdowns. Or perhaps from memories of painful hours spent watching other people’s awful children, waiting for those 3 and a half minutes your angel gets to shine. In her characteristically bizarre way, Lally Katz takes this cultural phenomenon and builds her characters around it, as they in turn construct their own imagined worlds. Her play is an investigation of just how far uninhibited human make-believe can go.
Though the voice of ‘Lally Katz’ (here Emma Beech) encircles the action and story of the play, it is driven by her two marvellous creations – the siblings Abalone and Gerture. When their parents died from a tragic gardening accident, the two became agoraphobic, and thenceforth their world is as tiny as their own house yet as enormous as all they can imagine. Gerture takes refuge in her career as a primary school teacher, yet is still plagued by relationship troubles with Ian. Abalone is wholly focused on his Eisteddfod career, though he takes time out to be Ian when Gerture begs. It’s Katz’s real genius that this relationship appears plausible under the imposed circumstances. You find yourself wondering just how crazy you’d be if you never left the house or had any other human contact, and quickly realise the answer is “Very”.
Brad Williams as Abalone and Kate Roxby as Gerture are perfectly tuned to each other, moving fluidly together through their different worlds. From their base personas of childlike pretend-maturity, they snap into impersonations of parents while maintaining the sense that they’re children pretending to be adults, though possessing rather less childish views about the sexual needs of men. Each achieve so much storytelling through their body language and fantastic facial expressions, balancing on that absurdist’s tight-rope between being over-the-top and too realistic.
The set design of Cassandra Backler and Benjamin Galbraith wonderfully complements the style and story. It’s angled walls and ceilings narrow inwards, creating a world both familiar in objects yet unnaturally perceived, highlighted by the children’s chairs and toys that are fastened to the walls.
Ben Flett’s lighting design creates a dozen spaces from one, working seamlessly with the moveable set pieces, and adding depth to the differing pieces of the characters’ imaginative existence.
The unnatural and discordant sounds created by Jason Sweeney to accompany the performance serve to confuse; as an audience in a movie saturated world, I’m overly used to hearing music with specific emotional cues attached that let you know when to expect something sad, happy, or frightening. Sweeney’s sounds give us none of this complacency, and are thus perfectly suited to this performance. It’s great to hear something so very different and thought-provoking, an assessment that applies to the entire show.
five.point.one have served Adelaide a delicious portion of a playwright who is sweeping the world with her darkly absurd genius.
by Lally Katz
Venue: The Bakehouse Theatre | 255 Angas Street, Adelaide
Dates: Friday 29 April, 8:00pm – Saturday 14 May, 2011
Times: Wednesday - Saturday at 8:00pm
Tickets: Adult $25, Concession $22, Fringe Benefits $18, Students $12 (preview & Wed & Thurs nights only)
Bookings: www.bakehousetheatre.com | 82270505