Cathy Petocz’ surreal play, which investigates notions of self, has been developed through The Street’s The Hive and First Seen programs over a period of four years. The work was shortlisted for Playwriting Australia’s National Script Workshop 2013, and this premiere season at The Street received Arts ACT project funding.
Set in a multi-sensory double universe and filled to the brim with doppelgangers, impersonators and monstrous stand-ins, the play concerns two private detectives who are investigating missing person cases, light years apart. Or at least that’s what the program description promises.
The main characters are a young man, Timothy (Dylan van den Berg) who has been experiencing blanks since he met Hazel, (Yalaria Rogers), the young woman of his dreams. He seeks help from Polly (Kate Hosking), who appears to occupy another time-zone, and is being tracked by a character from outer space with the unlikely name of Whathisname (Raoul Cramer). A fifth character called Emmanuel (Kabu-Okai Davies) wanders in an out of the proceedings like an escapee from Pippin.
The characters spend a lot of time enquiring of each other ‘Who are you?’, ‘Why are you here?’, ‘Are you alright? and answer with lines like ‘I am who I remind you of’ or something similarly quasi-existentialist. Occasionally the dialogue rewinds, or stops mid-sentence, conjuring up thoughts of Waiting for Godot or even Alice in Wonderland, particularly when one character disappears down a rabbit-hole.
The actors do their best to make something of the characters, but as the proceedings drag on, it’s difficult to engage with characters who exhibit neither depth or purpose, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that the play is going nowhere, slowly.
Despite this, the production itself is impressive. Caroline Stacey has pulled out every ace from her capacious bag of directorial tricks. An experienced cast – an imaginative setting which has the audience seated on the stage and which encompasses the entire Street Theatre auditorium – a booming soundscape and flashy lighting effects – even face masks for the audience to wear at one point.
But when in the final scene, when Hazel and Timothy, trampling precariously over the auditorium chairs, again ask each other ‘Who Are You?’, ‘Why are you here?’, many left the theatre pondering the same questions.
Director: Caroline Stacey Featuring: Raoul Craemer, Kate Hosking, Ylaria Rogers, Dylan Van Den Berg Scenic / Costume Designer: Imogen Keen Sound Designer: Kimmo Vennonen Lighting Designer: Gillian Schwab
Where I End & You Begin
The Street Theatre, 15 Childers Street, Canberra City West
Season: 18th – 26th October 2014
For more information, visit: www.thestreet.org.au for details.
Image: Kate Hosking, Ylaria Rogers, Raoul Craemer – photo by Amanda Thorson
Review: Bill Stephens