Photo – Lisa Maree Williams
On Tuesday night the Brisbane Festival audience at the Theatre Republic (QUT Creative Industries precinct in Kelvin Grove) were invited into a nostalgic world of Ziggy Stardust, piano accordions, cassette players, dead pigeons and a shuttlecock or two with Klutz – A Tragicomedy, a work from playwright/director Benjamin Schostakowski.
The audience sits in the intimate space of The Loft looking atop a roof – there is an an antenna, an old sign neon sign, a smattering of leaves and a darkened window. Schostakowski and the design team (set and costume design by Dann Barber and Emma Vine, lighting by Alex Berlage) have done an absolutely incredible job transforming the space into a Twilight Zone rooftop – a seemingly innocuous location where you realise immediately that this is a place where anything can happen. It is on this rooftop where the whole story unfolds.
The credits roll in the darkness like an old film, listing the cast and crew, as everyone settles in for a sweetly morbid 60 minutes.
Melchior, a suicidal young son whose family runs Klutz Books, crawls out the window each night and sits on the roof, planning his demise. One night he meets Hendrick, a neighbour, whose flyaway badminton equipment has brought her to this suicidal young man.
What unfolds is a peculiar partnership driven by a blossoming (if not extremely odd) friendship and full of many laugh out loud moments (indeed many audience members seemed to be having a wonderful time).
Klutz – A Tragicomedy began its life as writer/director Benjamin Schostakowski’s NIDA work last year. The world of the play is very much like Schostakowski’s previous Brisbane hit A Tribute of Sorts – a very Tim Burton / Around the Twist style of heightened realism that Schostakowski admits to being influenced by.
The tragedy of loneliness and self-pity that is so prevalent in Klutz is the root of a great number of comedies. It is this bleak humour that audiences continue to love, that Schostakowski does well.
Sightlines were an issue – unfortunately my guest and I seemed to be seated in the worst place for the show – although we could see the majority of the action many moments that were played in the centre of the space were completely lost to us, and the people sitting in the row in front. For a work where the humour is built on so many visual moments, it was a little alienating and frustrating to be missing some of the action in this way.
The performers (Lucas Stibbard as Melchior Klutz and Neridah Waters as Hendrick Nacht) were enigmatically sweet, drawing on elements of clowning, creating extreme characterisations and, quite simply, are a wonderful pair to watch on stage together.
The play was more comedy than tragedy. Although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there is such wonderful potential in the script for some truly beautiful and touching moments that were missed, it seems a shame to cheat the audience out of the emotional grounding that could transform the work into something that stays in the conscious for a long time.
I do encourage every-one to go out, see this production, make up your own mind and tell others what you thought.
Brisbane Festival and QUT present
Klutz - A Tragicomedy
Written and Directed by Benjamin Schostakowski
Venue: Theatre Republic, The Loft | QUT Creative Industries Precinct, Cnr Kelvin Grove Rd & Musk Ave, Kelvin Grove QLD
Dates: 9 – 13 Sept, 2014
Tickets: $25 – $20