Left – Amy Victoria Brooks. Cover – Bridget Walters, Ann Portus, Samantha Soh and Nic Krieg. Photos – Michael Errey
Innocence is like a Decoder puzzle. You’re given a few letters then expected to be able to work out the rest. There are symbolic set pieces, symbolic actions, symbolic phrases – a semiotic web for the audience to clumsily wade through.
Innocence is one scrawny player trying to tackle an entire rugby team; first it hurls itself at Fear and Cowardice, as two characters watch a woman drown, one holding the other back for fear of the potential ramifications of the rescue. The ball is passed to Grief, Weakness and Need, and the woman seeking forgiveness for the sins of a son she never bore, from the parents of the murdered child. Lacking the courage to scream his honest feelings at her, the Father offers her a bed for the night and a cup of tea.
Two men sit on the top of the Suicide Tower. One can’t wait to jump, while the other still questions, fearful of the Beyond. A scene of endless questions, possibilities and circles ensues.
Then comes parenthood, old-age and disintegration, as the comic relief character in the show, Frau Zucker, devotes her last years to making life miserable for her daughter and son-in-law. The wonderful Bridget Walters plays lonely Frau Zucker with a great delight in her character’s viciousness and humour.
Anna Linarello creates Ella, the middle-aged philosopher pacing the house in her fluffy slippers. Even though she has burnt her books and dreams of starting afresh, the charcoal stains of her world-view remain. Her husband is a frozen presence in the background who she long ago beat into submissive silence. She hates him for his constancy and his ability to be content with the simple work of a jeweller. Ella’s three lengthy monologues move through stages of constructing her character and ideas, developing them, to find beautiful moments of humour in her neurotic frustration, until finally she finds herself repeating – repeating ideas, repeating actions, repeating desires. She is alone in her world, in her separate scenes, ever pacing her never-ending cycle.
The blind stripper, manufactured by her blind parents to be born sightless, is named Absolute. She is complete, as she completes her parents. A sudden love buds between she and Fadoul, the fearful immigrant who restrained his friend while a strange woman drowned. Fadoul finds God in a bag, in the form of 200,000 euros. He realises that “God is in us”, that God can only work through people, and uses God (and a little science) to give sight to Absolute. But she resists his miracle. Samantha Soh plays the loveable Absolute, and does a magnificent impression of blindness, and a valiant characterisation of this two-legged symbol.
Some descriptions of this controversial play call it hopeful. Through all struggles, the human spirit remains resilient. This is true in most cases – it can perhaps even be true for those who choose to end their lives. Yet to call it a play about hope is misguided. It is a play about surviving. Its characters stagger through life, desperately trying to connect the puzzle pieces of what they see, feel, hear, and are taught, in the vain hope of forming a coherent picture of existence.
The form of the play resembles this struggle. Ideas flutter on tenuous wings of comprehension, sometimes taking full body, at other times fading into smoke. You walk out wondering what you’ve been hit with – was it a rubber mallet, a wave of icy water, or a plummeting human body? Could be all of the above. I left feeling exhausted. Though the script is very well acted, and the scenes and staging excellently strung together, you feel like a weekend-jogger who has been suddenly thrown into a marathon. Yet the muscle that hurts is your brain.
Accidental Productions presents
by Dea Loher
Directed by Joh Hartog
Venue: Bakehouse Theatre | 255 Angas Street, Adelaide
Dates: Friday, July 1 – 16, 2011
Times: Wed – Sat @ 8pm
Tickets: Adult $23, Concession $19
Bookings: www.bakehousetheatre.com | at door | (08) 8227 0505