March 02, 2007

Time Travel


This Uncharted Hour
By Finegan Kruckemeyer
Brink Productions and
State Theatre of South Australia
13 February. Dunstan Playhouse

Reviewed by Murray Bramwell

As its title suggests This Uncharted Hour is a venture into unnavigated territory. The central character, Luka, begins a day like any other but when a dog runs in the path of his car, things start to go awry. In his consternation, the young man goes driving near old haunts for a close encounter (in a Fellini-ish sort of way) with past family past traumas – events presented as random and non-sequential vignettes. Writer Finegan Kruckemeyer’s imaginative chamber play uses reverie, flashback, even the voices of those who never were, to describe the breakdown of a relationship – and a family – after the stillbirth of Lucas, the eldest child.

This production, with an extensive use of original composition by Raymond Chapman-Smith and Quentin Grant, well-known driving forces in the Firm, provides a considerable task for director Chris Drummond. The text, literate and perceptive though it is, has an abstract, sometimes cryptic quality and, while carefully plotted through the various drafts and workshops the script has received, it takes nearly all of its sixty-something minutes duration to explain itself.

Gaelle Mellis’s set, moodily lit by Geoff Cobham, consists of a fold-out frieze of wintry birches along with a bare and twiggy tree, a forlorn park bench and a sunken bath for several of the domestic scenes. Also, framed in their own tableau, are pianist Jamie Cock and soprano Emma Horwood performing the quite formal and slightly lugubrious mix of Schubert’s Nacht und Traume, Chapman-Smith’s own evocative night songs (also sung in German) and trickling piano interludes from the capable Quentin Grant.

For the performers comes the task of presenting scenes ranging from the local and colloquial to the poetic and other-worldly. As Luka, whose presence spans all these scenes and styles, Nathan O’Keefe is equal to the task with an amiable and lucid performance which contributes greatly to the play’s success. Paul Blackwell as his father Adam, estranged from his wife after the baby’s death, brings a believable rawness of feeling as he guiltily pursues an affair with the younger woman, Sarah, vividly played by Michaela Cantwell. As Penny, the mother retreating into long-term depressive grief, Elena Carapetis is valiant, if somewhat loaded down by the melancholy of Kruckemeyer’s text. As Lucas, the portrait of the dead infant as a Young Man, Lachlan Mantell supplies an impish, sometimes bratty challenge to the bewildered Luka.

Brink Productions, in collaboration with State Theatre Company, have achieved much with This Uncharted Hour. The play, while strangely adrift in time and space (even with his laconic Australian accent, Luka has very little to “place” him) nonetheless has a cumulative truth and complexity about it. The domestic scenes have a painful particularity and conviction – and the production overall, in the spell of its Schubertian soundtrack, leaves us with an uneasy sense of difficult memories and half-remembered dream.

“Difficult Memories” The Adelaide Review, No.311, March 2, 2007, p.15

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