The first book I read on the subject was “On the beach” by Nevil Shute. Deadly radiation from the nuclear war started in the northern hemisphere was drifting on the wind slowly, but oh so surely, to Australia. It was certain death and the book looked at what people did while they waited.
I’m sure no-one could have read that book or seen the film without asking themselves, “What would I do?” This play The Bridge on at the Bakehouse Theatre as part of the Fringe, answers this question for a young couple (Caitlin Docking and Nick Rinke) who have come across each other as they wander desperately around, seemingly the only survivors of such a global holocaust. He has convinced her that there is a place where others are gathered, where there is food, water, a warm welcome and “everything we need to start over”. All they have to do is get there. It’s a long way but it’s their only chance of life and it lies at the other end of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
We meet them when they have travelled far together and share a half a jar of tinned apricots that he has found (“you wouldn’t want to know where” he says) with such sumptuous pleasure, you can almost taste them. But what do they talk about? They tell each other stories, he tries to teach her to dance and then confesses he doesn’t know how but how can they talk about a subject about which there can be nothing left to say after all this wearisome time? As a frontispiece of Shute’s novel there is a quotation from T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”
“In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river”.
They have nothing left to say on the subject as themselves so they become two other people by means of a sheet, a torch and their hands. They become “Captain” and “Loo-tenant” and talk along with their hands in a fine display of shadowgraphy. It’s a clever art and it’s amazing how menacing the fingers can look when the character is being devious or angry and how you can see tonsils when they laugh! You get sucked in like watching a Punch and Judy show when the characters become “real”. The lieutenant is sycophantic, the captain is bossy but things get sorted about what to do next. Such characteristics don’t prevail when they are face to face and they rely on each other, clinging in terror sometimes at their thoughts but their alter egos and her mobile phone on which she plays the song “San Francisco” keep them sane and oddly reassured.
"If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there."
The two young actors, who also wrote this play, carry it along convincingly and well and their skills at shadowgraphy add another very effective dimension to theatre arts which has faded from the repertoire over the years but makes a welcome return in this play. It’s the first time they have performed it as a full length play outside of their native Canada. It is directed by Paul Weston, stage managed by Sierra Wylie and Lighting and Sound is by Stephen Dean. It's certainly worth seeing.
Green Eggs & Ham/Canada presents
by Caitlin Docking and Nick Rinke
Director Paul Weston
Venue: The Bakehouse Theatre | 255 Angas Street, Adelaide.
Dates: 19 – 24 Feb 2018
Tickets: $13 – $15
Bookings: 1300621255 | www.bakehousetheatre.com