You never know what you might find in the burbs. Feat Theatre writer Gareth Evans and director Amanda Falson launched their performance space in Preston’s Oakover Road last Thursday night with a bizarre multi-dimensional play, Receivers which appears to be about one man’s drug-induced psychosis but you can never be quite sure.
The protagonist Hedrick discovers that he’s a ‘receiver’, one of a select group of especially sensitive humans used by aliens to communicate. Early scenes with the character of Hillary (played by Leila Rodgers), a patient in a psychiatric ward give you the initial impression this might be an earnest production about mental health issues, which it definitely is not, earnest that is.
Dual realities peopled with funny but Pinteresquely menacing characters, the shifting dynamics of playground ostracism, a card game with only one rule where the process of winning remains a mystery, personal messages via television and relentless sexual frustration are some of the elements making up a production both hilarious and unsettling. The backdrop is a large screen/window alternating between cornfields and outer space. Rodgers is terrifically unpredictable as Hillary. Tom Milton as the General and Satellite Man was very good – a strong, tight performance. The one female presence, Renee Palmer didn’t seem as comfortable as Prostawhore/ Annette, the latter seemed a clichéd persona, she might have been funnier if she had subverted the whore image, rather than delivering a prickly over-familiar character. Mathew Young as Hedrick is always sympathetic despite his blokey flaws (although actor Young’s too cute to convince us he’d have any problem getting laid!) and Mark Tregonning is scary as Tony and solid and believable as Jack.
There is a nice balance of monologue and dialogue – this worked. The whole thing is challenging to an audience and at times hard to follow; there’s a trippy hallucinogenic feel to the show – deliberately creating in the audience an unsettled feeling where you have to give yourselves over to the proceedings and just go with it in the hopes that you, like the hapless Hedrick, will stumble into order eventually. The text could have been tighter in some areas. The satirical elements are well-developed and well-thought out but on the whole overplayed; the ‘space box’ scene towards the end falls down in this regard; it’s over-extended. The pacing becomes too predictable with scenes of even length and the production as a whole would be helped by a trim.
That said, Receivers is an amiable ride, not the alienating experience you might imagine. The writer’s control of the storyline means you’re confident that the narrative will eventually cohere, somehow. Which it does, perhaps without the most satisfying dramatic impact but Receivers nonetheless is a theatrical pleasure due to its wit and imaginative concepts.
Feat Theatre is easy to get to despite its uninspired locale.
Feat In Space Theatre Company presents
by Gareth Ellis
Director Amanda Falson
Venue: Feat Theatre | 62 – 64 Oakover Road, Preston
Dates: 19 November – 1 December, 2014
Times: Mon, Wed – Sat 7:30pm
Tickets: $25 Full, $20 Concession and Grps 6+, $15 Students and Manic Mondays
Bookings: 0407 245 115 | www.featinspace.com
** This production contains drug use and coarse language.