MKA presents this double bill of two short, new works from local writers Bridget Mackey and Nathaniel Moncrieff.
First up was Hose. This one hour play follows the story of Isabelle who checks in to a beauty clinic for a fake tan spray. The clinic is sterile in more ways than one, with the icy and detached staff putting Isabelle through much more than she had imagined. The staff come and go through each stage of the procedure in very simple but rigidly choreographed ways, hinting at how impersonal the beauty industry really is. Retro music blares on occasion through a boombox, giving the thing a bit of a sixties feel.
And the retro theme recurs as Isabelle – in the break of each new cleansing procedure in preparation for the fake tan application – slips back in time to memories at first nostalgic, but gradually more disturbing.
The excellent music score added to this disturbing feel. Isabelle is clearly troubled by these memories, and given the score and the strange lighting, you just feel that things are not right.
It all came together very well. I couldn't pick fault with Hose. It gripped, it disturbed, it was a strong and confident piece of writing well matched by strong and confident acting.
Unfortunately, I didn't think the writing and acting in Tinkertown were as well matched. Pity, because there were good bits of both.
Chester is an ex-crim who, on his first day out of prison to collect his daughter for some quality time, shoots his ex-wife's sister who had been looking after the daughter. Turns out Chester was in the slammer for killing his ex-wife too. Chester is not evil, he's just stupid and violent. He takes his daughter and hits the road after a slightly weird and pretty unconvincing dying scene. It was going for laughs and it didn't quite work – unless it was designed to raise the question: Is this play drama or is it comedy?
The musical interludes also didn't work for this reviewer.
The stage design looked wonderful. The fairylights hanging at the back of the stage indicating setting (A Hotel; A Bar; A Field) looked great and perhaps hinted at the yearning for better things our two main characters felt.
Steven Kennedy as Chester had a commanding stage presence. Very convincing as a tough guy not to be trifled with. Rebecca Mezei as the sullen teenage daughter was an absolute treat to watch. Both were engaging, both are clearly strong actors.
However it felt to me that they (and the other actors) were carrying a play that maybe needed more work. Basically there was no character development. They started out as two characters shouting at each other, hit the road shouting at each other, then parted company shouting at each other (kind of). There was a doomed relationship with no chance of working. There was an almost half-hearted attempt at some understanding or care between them, but again indecision came into play – and a good thing too because by that late stage of the story it would have been ridiculous to have any kind of redemption come into it. Chester wanted to be loved by his daughter (this was all selfish), but there simply was nothing likeable about him, let alone loveable. Likewise his daughter just didn't want to have anything to do with Chester, she just wanted to be away from him, was not interested in him, so you just didn't care about them or their relationship.
The closing scene with the singing and the attempt to get the audience to clap along... it just wasn't going down with the audience I was part of.
Overall, Hose was an excellent piece of theatre, whereas Tinkertown was good in parts but with flaws.
MKA in association with Theatre Works presents
by Bridget Mackey | director Alister Smith
by Nathaniel Moncrieff | director Tobias Manderson-Galvin
Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
Dates: Feb 21 – Mar 3, 2012