FleshEatingTiger | The Owl and Cat TheatreLeft – Marissa Bennett and Zak Zavod. Photo – Jason Cavanagh

The Owl and Cat Theatre start off their 2015 season with FleshEatingTiger, a play by US writer Amy Tofte. This work premiered in Edinburgh and was well-received there; now Melbourne audiences get to savour this new theatrical voice. The Man (Zak Zavod) and The Woman (Marissa Bennett) find themselves locked in desire and addiction. The audience is never sure in this play within a play that deconstructs itself as it goes along, when the two characters are genuinely present with each other or with us, if ever.

The opening of this play (the text has been rearranged by director Jason Kavanagh), employs the conceit of a pseudo-scientific lecture about the ‘depreciation’ of a young man as he drinks his way to alcoholism. The initial delivery by The Woman is underscored by uncertainty; this is quite deliberate as we soon find out. She’s attracted to The Man and is quickly undone by this. There’s a scene where the two talk about Meryl Streep and Robert de Niro – the dialogue is childish, deliberately so, because the characters are making reference to artifice. This silly conversation underlines the media’s dehumanization and objectification of famous actors, how we project so much on celebrities, and reflects on how we objectify and perform ourselves, especiallly when compelled by lust/love, and alcohol. The characters talk about themselves acting and making theatre. Lusty attraction, a claustrophobic interior world, the desire to destroy, the elements of obsessive love are well-portrayed by both performers. Having another human being look too closely is unbearable, paradoxically right when we long to get close to them. The play expresses this ambivalence perfectly. The actors deliver their roles with much gusto, the final scenes are excruciatingly moving. There’s an unobtrusively comical character, the Blank Man, played by Colin Craig playing guitar and offering some gentle relief. The set works nicely on symbolic levels. 

The unnamed characters only exist within the boundaries of their stage time. To be truly satisfying some hint of backstory or history or deeper connection to the outside world would balance the work and make the characters more sympatico. Too long is about the only other quibble I have with the text, even though director Jason Kavanagh has done some pruning . All in all a fine start to the year.

The Owl and Cat Theatre presents
by Amy Tofte

Director Jasan Cavanagh

Venue: The Owl and Cat Theatre | 34 Swan Street Richmond 3121
Dates: 23 February – 7 March 2015
Tickets: $25 – $30
Bookings: www.owlandcat.com.au

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