A promising premise, a densely written script with some rough patches in delivery.
Two couples go on a camping trip, leaving the city and university life to develop new skills. Losing contact with the wider world as phone signals and GPS fail, unable to find their intended campsite, they start setting up tents in a random clearing. Easily distracted, Rosa babbles happily about finding an odd grey parrot nearby, while supercilious Leah tries to keep everyone on task and challenges her friends to try new things. Rosa’s girlfriend, Alex, has come on the trip despite her blindness, refusing to accept limitations, while Leah’s boyfriend, Scott, puts his own reservations aside to support her plans. The group’s bickering is disrupted by the arrival of Anna, a lost tourist with an oddly inconsistent story, insistent that they are all in danger and need to leave urgently. As darkness falls, the bush grows silent and events escalate with growing awareness of an unseen and mysterious danger.
Resembling The Blair Witch Project in immediacy and the characters’ strong fear responses, intriguing events keep coming in Angela Donlan’s relentless script. The work’s key novelty factor lies in blindfolding the audience, turning the performance into a radio play with an accompanying soundscape. In a Fringe tent venue, intruding noise from adjacent performances is a risk and likewise the roar of the air conditioning unit is a distraction. Despite this, rudimentary sound control and manipulation emphasises changes in atmosphere with adjusted ambient background. However other sound issues, such as contrasting control of individual character voice levels, stand to be greatly improved. The overlapping bickering, retreat away from and approach towards the other characters, are poorly done, leading to confusion and difficulty in establishing the relative distances as events unfold. Given the building atmosphere of apprehension within the script, this technical deficiency removes much of the work’s potential impact.
The script has many nice touches, with each moment bringing further revelations, but is bogged down by cramming too many side details into the wordy dialogue. Each character’s personal development is neglected in favour of the ins and outs of multifaceted interpersonal conflicts, covering university group politics, the challenges of blindness, resentment over perceived betrayals of mutual but absent friends, accusations of manipulation, accusations of bigotry around sexuality, a random grey parrot… all would have benefited from stripping back the script to fit the 55 minute run time with greater individual character development and enhanced attention to building tension around the unseen threat.
While ultimately unsuccessful as a work, FEAR demonstrates potential for Donlan’s future scripts. With improved production values, either a longer run time to develop the grab bag of discussion points or a stern editing process to remove extraneous material, there is promise for similar future work. In the context of Fringe theatre generally, it is exciting (not to) see such experimentation from emerging local creatives.
2018 Perth FringeWorld
written and produced Angela Donlan
Venue: Circus Theatre, Fringe Central, Perth Cultural Centre
Dates: 11 – 16 February 2018
Tickets: $22 – $16