The latest instalment from Made In Canberra, The Fridge is an amusing piece of work that manages to avoid the worst of predictability but doesn't quite distinguish itself with dialogue that encourages the suspension of disbelief.
With characters that all seem to say exactly what they mean all the time, there is not a lot of room for the cast to perform. The words take over, and even the best one liners fall flat.
The program and advertising makes reference to Monty Python repeatedly, and attempts to position the play as a continuation of this tradition. This may go some way to explaining the lack of subtext. Python was certainly capable of developing great characters with little or no subtext, but here it just doesn't work. The themes are rather too heavy, and the characters need to be held for too long to manage without at least a modicum of layering in the characters.
The listing of four dramaturgs on the back of the program is therefore surprising. Whether the script required a lightening of its themes, a deepening of its characters or just a general abbreviation, as it stands, it simply doesn't work.
The cast, however, carry on valiantly in the face of a desperately flawed script. Andrew Eddey holds this cast together, with a strong stage presence despite his small frame and the low status of his character. His energy is the driving force that draws the play together, and I hope we will see more of him on Canberra's stages. He is well supported by Hagen Marsh-Brown, whose energy is likewise infectious, Remy Graham-Throssell as the classic villain, and Daniel Minns, the charming imp who delivers the central characters from their poverty.
The set is absolutely inspired, and Chris Brain should be congratulated on its success. From the moment the audience enters the theatre, they are confronted by a mountain of cardboard boxes cluttering the stage on one side, while the other side boasts a tidy cardboard design feature. While the set is appropriate, there are twice as many props as are necessary to tell this story, and scene changes are unnecessarily slow as a result, but the cleverness of this set partially masks the cluttered action.
The Fridge has a familiar moral about the superficiality of possessions, with little to distinguish it from the plays that have gone before. It was, however, refreshing to see a play on this theme end abruptly and with its central issues essentially unresolved. There is something of a relief in not having to sit through the standard diatribe on how our obsession with material wealth serves no purpose.
So this play may not meet the mark in terms of continuing the Monty Python tradition of packaging universal truths in funny little packages, but the cast and crew should certainly be commended for their efforts in bringing it to the stage.
Duck Bunny Theatre presents
by Alister Emerson
Director Alister Emerson
Venue: The Street Theatre
Dates: 11 – 13 October, 2013
Tickets: $25 – $20
Bookings: (02) 6247 1223 | www.thestreet.org.au