August 15, 2010


Filed under: 2010,Archive

July 22, 2010


by Paulo Castro
Stone/Castro and Adelaide Festival Centre inSpace Program
Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre.
July 21. Tickets  $ 17 – 26. Bookings : BASS 131 246
Until July 24.
Melbourne season: Arts House Melbourne, August 11- 15.

Throughout time human beings have looked upwards for salvation. It is from the sky that they will come, whether they are signs and portents, angels and messiahs, the liberating jets – or superheroes. As someone says in Paulo Castro’s engagingly ambitious political discourse : Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman are aliens in human form, who embody everything we wish we were.

The setting for Superheroes is a closed ward in a rehab centre and, under constant supervision, there is an evangelical Christian (Julian Crotti) who plays barrelhouse piano, a Palestinian Moslem (Paulo Castro), who has woken from a twenty year coma, an Iraq war veteran (Nick Bennett)with post-combat trauma, and a pregnant woman (Jo Stone), devoted to the works of Nietzsche and said to be a murderess. Assigned to manage this nutty microcosmic clash of civilisations is a male nurse and his nephew on work experience (Hew Parham and Lewis Rankin).

The distinctively inventive Stone/Castro company brings a comic gusto to this mélange – from the opening air guitar solo of The Star Spangled Banner from the otherwise prim nurse, to the arrival of the mail order Superman outfits worn thereafter by several of the characters. Emboldened by their superhero status they variously prosecute their cases – for conversion to Christ’s message, to the repudiation of armies and the end of war, to resisting all ideology except that of the survival of the self. Interestingly, the Palestinian is only bemused to find nothing has changed during his twenty year sleep.

Director Jo Stone has brought together a capable cast and a strong design team. Wendy Todd’s cream and green ward with a wall of Venetian blinds opens up on a glassed area for the production’s more surreal moments, while Sascha Budimski’s explosive sound design and Kerry Ireland’s vivid lighting energise the proceedings. Julian Crotti gives an appealing performance as the Christian zealot, Nick Bennett does well with a heavy burden as the embittered soldier, Castro makes impish superhero comedy (with assistance from a mobility scooter), and Hew Parham is deadpan droll as the nurse.

A memorable feature of this zany dialectic is Jo Stone’s select use of dreamy choreography (often initiated by Lewis Rankin) which breaks through Paulo Castro’s sometimes strident dialogue with an unexpected pathos. Of course, Superheroes bites off more than it can chew in one hour ten, and, in reminding us of the intractable nature of global ideologies, it brings a grim message and not much X-ray vision. But, in its theatrical variety, and willingness to take on serious issues, it also creditably resists the kryptonite of indifference.

Murray Bramwell

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