A play is like a photograph – success begins with the composition. P.O.V. Dave by Noel Maloney might strike some as obscuring its key subject by having too much in the frame. The titular Dave (Keith Brockett) is a freelance photographer. He makes a living prowling the night to take photos and video that celebrities find inconvenient.
Dave’s a reliable source of sleazy content whenever his contact Bronwyn (Eleanor Howlett) calls with an assignment. These have always been something of an adventure, until recently. Some bright young thing killed herself shortly after her squeaky-clean image was trashed by publication of Dave’s photos. Now he’s having doubts about his career choices.
A critical event leads to Dave recounting how we got to this point through a series of flashbacks. These begin with the latest task from Bronwyn, getting the dirt on a popular young Christian leader, Father Kevin (Gabriel Partington). Through carefully stage-managed appearances with dutiful, beaming wife/accessory Kathryn (Annie Lumsden), Father Kevin is building a profile for his Hope Party’s political aspirations. Unlike Dave’s other jobs though, he’s not finished with this subject after the shots are taken.
Some flashbacks scenes are useful in illuminating Dave’s relationships and nascent unease about his work. Estranged wife Susan (also Howlett) reminds Dave that he’s always saying he’ll find another job. She also won’t let him forget that his work must be kept safely away from their young son Jack (Jude Katsianis) when he visits Dad’s spartan apartment on weekends.
Other reminiscences are less instructive. A secret with a supernatural bent from Dave’s elderly father Angus (Peter Stratford) was hinted at over a few scenes. The delayed telling didn’t tease enough to inspire my interest, and the revelation was ultimately of little consequence.
In a similar vein, a number of other scenes that made the play saturated with colour but not substance could have been trimmed or cut. At a run time of around 80 minutes, P.O.V. Dave often presented a diffuse profile of its main subject, and felt overly long as a result.
The story requires the audience to swallow a lot of improbable events. For example, that Dave would allow Father Kevin into his apartment, that Kevin’s bouts of yelling wouldn’t cause a neighbour to phone police, and that an intruder would take time to hack Dave’s computer rather than just steal the hard drive.
Also, if the play was shooting for moral ambiguity, it missed the mark. In a time where powerful people and corporations seem able to do as they please, surely exposing hypocrisy of someone like Father Kevin – the latest in a line of morally bankrupt evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker from the US – is a public service.
Direction by Beng Oh also had distracting moments. Brockett often snapped his head towards the audience after a revelation, giving some scenes an unintended comedic feel of over-reaction, or something you would see on an Australian soap opera. Further, Brockett was often too sappy and passive. As tension escalated, this was hard to believe, especially when there was an implied threat to his child’s welfare.
In his roles Partington was limited to often being quite shouty, which seemed incongruous with information to surface later in the play. Howlett’s Susan was underused, yet her Bronwyn had a good cameo of efficient politeness with interest in Dave only while he serves a purpose. Late in the piece Lumsden gets to give more depth to Kathryn, as the calculating brains behind the Father Kevin front.
There were certainly some interesting scenes in P.O.V. Dave. Those between Lumsden’s party girl, Gwen and Brockett after a night of clubbing, brought a sensitivity not seen elsewhere in the piece as they hinted at how Dave had lost himself over time. However, this was still an underdeveloped subplot of the main story.
A particular novelty of this production was the use of projections designed by Christina Logan-Bell. Sometimes P.O.V. Dave got carried away with these, using them in scenes where they were completely unnecessary. Given all the other distractions in the story, we didn’t need more. There were some instances when the special effects were well-deployed; their use as a light box showed how simplicity and suitability served the production far more than razzle-dazzle.
There is a good play in P.O.V. Dave, it just needs the right cropping and filtering to bring it to the fore. The ending had a suitable punch, but we had to sit through a few too many misfires to get to this money shot.
Director: Beng Oh Featuring: Keith Brockett, Eleanor Howlett, Jude Katsianis, Annie Lumsden, Gabriel Partington, Peter Stratford Set and Costume Design: Christina Logan-Bell Lighting Design: Matthew Barber Sound Design: Tom Backhaus Videography: Yolanda Rios Dramaturgy: Jane Miller Writer: Noel Maloney
La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton
Performance: Wednesday 17 August 2016 – 6.30pm
Season continues to 21 August 2016
For more information, visit: www.15minutesfromanywhere.com for details.
Image: Keith Brockett features in P.O.V Dave at La Mama (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte