February 21, 2010

Adelaide Come Out 2009 Theatre

Filed under: Archive

The Dumb Waiter
by Harold Pinter
State Theatre Company of South Australia
The Space, Adelaide Festival Centre. May 20.
The 2-Dimensional Life of Her
Devised by Fleur Elise Noble
Queen’s Theatre. May 18.

For the last two weeks an estimated 120,000 young people from across South Australia have been participating in Come Out, the Australian Festival for Young People, which, for 34 years now, has been presenting a biennial array of events and activities in the performing arts and literature. Under cover of daylight, while the rest of us are busy in the workaday world, Come Out has offered a program for everyone from pre-schoolers to those in their late teens and, this year’s director Jason Cross, has shown particular flair in his selections.

The older members of Come Out’s broad age spectrum can be notoriously difficult to engage and neither didactic “issues” theatre nor ingratiating pop culture name-checking are guarantees for success. Which is why State Theatre Company’s outstanding production of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter is a shrewd inclusion. This enigmatic one-acter epitomizes Pinter’s comedy of menace, as the hit men, Gus and Ben, armed and garrulous, wait in a dreary basement room for the Call. Instead, via the clanking food delivery chute (complete with speaking tube) come orders for meals – from a diner and destination, both unknown.

Following the geometric symmetry of Morag Cook’s suitably shabby horizontal box set – two doors, two beds, the dumb waiter like a shrine in the centre – director, Geordie Brookman has cast identical twins David and Brendan Rock to mirror the ambiguity of power and purpose in the text. It is a startling effect and as Gus, Brendan Rock is excellent as a prattling contrast to David Rock’s laconic Ben. Brookman capably paces the cat and mouse rhythms of the dialogue, keeping both its comedy and its sinister edge. The young audience watched in their own fascinated silence as The Dumb Waiter moved to its grimly circular conclusion.

In contrast, but equally challenging and uncompromising to the Come Out patrons, is 2-Dimensional Life of Her, a startlingly inventive visual theatre work by Fleur Elise Noble, which first featured in the 2008 Brisbane Festival’s Under the Radar fringe program. With an intriguing combination of live performer and animation, puppetry and drawing, Noble uses low-definition black and white projections, directed at various free-standing cut-outs to create witty glimpses of a 2-D décor of herself in various living rooms and parlours, sometimes populated also by paper puppets, then erased by niftily synchronized wipes, dissolves and overlays. At one point the whole stage goes up in video flames – as vivid as any actual house fire. This is clever, engaging stuff. Fleur Elise Noble, it seems, has ideas to burn.

Murray Bramwell

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