I once saw Teddy Tahu Rhodes on stage in the opera “Dead Man Walking” doing push ups while singing an aria. I never expected to see its like, but now ...
The Crown and Anchor Hotel on Grenfell Street in Adelaide is a sprawling pub but not quite as sprawling as I thought as, not being able to find what I was looking for, I accidentally wandered next door where there was some pretty heavy rock going on and masses of happy patrons jogging about. That’s Adelaide at the moment, a vibrant entertainment city from parkland to parkland, and some. No worries, I was early, so chatted with others as they drifted in to await the opening of the Band Room doors on which was pasted a notice saying “Ear plugs available at the bar. $2.” It was friendly. I’ve mentioned before the friendliness of theatre-goers and I’m convinced we’re a special breed. Adelaide at the moment is friendliness itself with the Fringe on now and the Festival pending.
This play, Marathon, written by Edoardo Erba and translated from the Italian, was the reason the two protagonists Ross Vosvotekas and Adam Cirillo have been in training since October to meet this remarkable physical challenge. It was directed by Ross, assisted by Adam.
The show opens with a man prone on stage until he’s casually thumped by another who’s obviously about to run by the Adidas (or maybe Nike) looks of him. This is Steve (Ross Vosvotekas) the laconic, down to earth, let’s-get-on-with-it friend of Mark (Adam Cirillo) who’s got the flu and would rather stay where he is than run. But Steve brooks none of that nonsense and, whimper and shout though he does, Mark eventually does as he’s told and the two set off for their goal, the level crossing. They start to run and, believe me, they run throughout 50 minutes of the play and talk, rant and rave at the same time never stopping the one or the other. It’s a remarkable feat.
What do they talk about? Well, to start with Steve has a model, another runner from 2,500 years ago – Pheidippides the Greek. Steve says that the popular version of the story is that the Greeks had been invaded by a hugely outnumbering force of Persians out to take Marathon but, against the odds, had won the battle. Pheidippides ran 40 kms to Athens to tell them, shouting “Nike Nike” (Victory, Victory), then dropped dead from exhaustion. He expands on the story, apocryphal though it is, and says that then as now, it was considered noble to die after performing a heroic deed for one’s country. It took persistence, courage, immense physical endeavour and Steve tells the story to groaning, moaning Mark with evangelistic relish.
And so they run on as they have so many times before. They are in training for the New York marathon and Steve reminds Mark that nothing short of absolute dedication will do and that “We either do it well or we don’t do it at all”. Right now Mark would rather not do it at all but Steve, asking him why he has to curse so much, castigates him for the too many antibiotics and other pills he takes and urges him on, getting a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse in response. Mark says he hates seeing Steve’s neck, the neck of a robot, always in front of him – “I’ve seen the base of your neck a thousand times. I hate necks” and on follow stories of friends Gonzo and Peewee whose necks he f------ hated too. Mark shouts, fumes and shouts some more, always wanting to know how long they’ve been running for and why they’re doing it. Steve proselytizes about women, how “they just don’t get the things we do and why we do them” and asks how you can get anywhere if you’re not prepared to suffer and that the guy who is not is a wuss. For, by now, Steve is starting to hurt too. It’s his spleen he says, “like a knife in my side”. They talk about football, whether God exists, Mark’s sister (one big pain in the arse according to him), their boyhood friendship, the girl they each loved, school – “They laughed at me,” said Mark. He deliberately falls but Steve talks about the survival of the fittest, how weak animals die, only the fittest survive and how the old, sick and handicapped add to the over-population that the young are forced to support. Steve’s pain increases, which gives Mark some solace, and gradually he passes the pain threshold himself and shouts that his head is so clear like a wide open space and he’s flying over it. He takes the lead, Steve grimacing behind. Do they get there?
I wished Adam would shout less – much less – and, if Signore Erba wouldn’t mind, cut out much of the swearing, for what he has to say would be much more effective without it. After all, it’s lost its shock value by now and no longer carries the punch it did, It’s just unnecessary, dating, baggage most of the time. Congratulations to these two actors for a Herculean effort.
Adapt Enterprises presents
by Edoardo Erba
Director Ross Vosvoterkas
Venue: Crown and Anchor Hotel | 196 Grenfell Street, Adelaide
Dates: 22 Feb – 18 March 2018
Tickets: $22 – $25