It was an auspicious choice by The Q to present Christopher Samuel Carroll’s Smokescreen as the inaugural presentation in its Q The Locals program which aims to provide a pathway for theatre creatives in the region by providing a platform for new, local, professional work.
A highly trained professional actor, director and writer, Christopher Samuel Carroll has established his own theatre company, Bare Witness Theatre, in the region, for which he has devised a series of solo shows, while maintaining his professional career as an actor performing in productions for other professional regional theatre companies.
For his play, Smokescreen, which is being premiered in the Q as part of the initiative, Carroll has teamed with former Canberra actor, Damon Baudin, who is in his final year of a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) at the Victorian College of the Arts.
The play is essentially a diatribe between two smart and charismatic men; both used controlling the message, who vie for territory, within their own relationship, in their efforts to gain superiority over the other.
Baudin plays a young advertising executive supremely confident of his ability to convince the company executive, played by Carroll, that he has the knowledge and skills to move Carroll’s company to the next level. In doing so he reveals an encyclopaedic knowledge of strategies utilised by conglomerates to manipulate human behaviour.
Though recognising the younger man’s intellectual brilliance, the company executive counters with his own arguments, but in the process discovers himself questioning his own moral compass.
The play is set in America, 45 years ago, and the meeting takes place in an airport business lounge, suggested by simple, superbly lit setting consisting of a table, two chairs, and a bar. The company executive smokes incessantly, creating a smoky, moody atmosphere.
The writing is dense, detailed, impressively researched and delivered brilliantly by the two actors in a series of long monologues punctuated by short staccato exchanges. Carroll’s direction is intelligent, appropriate, with just enough movement from the two protagonists to keep the audience engaged.
However, despite the brilliance of the writing and the bravura performances of both actors, with a running time of around one hour and 45 minutes without an interval, Smokescreen would benefit from some judicious cutting to prevent threatened brain-fag bought on by trying to absorb the admirably researched detail revealed in the complex, though never-the-less interesting arguments.
The Q Theatre – Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, 253 Crawford Street, Queanbeyan
Performance: Wednesday 2 February 2022
Season: 2 – 5 February 2022
Image: Damon Baudin and Christopher Samuel Carroll in Smokescreen – photo by Cathy Breen
Review: Bill Stephens OAM