Aspen Island Theatre Company
The Street Theatre to 31 July
Review by Len Power 28 July 2016
Julian Hobba’s ‘The Slip Lane’ starts promisingly. Two people meet in an Access Canberra waiting room in Gungahlin. She’s a single mum and he’s there to suggest that a road in the suburb needs a slip lane. When she mentions that she wants the Government to investigate a mysterious creature in the paddock across the road from her house, the guy, Matthew, sees an opportunity to get to know her by offering to investigate it himself.
The creature turns out to be a multi-eyed monster that talks a lot and is full of suggestions for Matthew - at least I think so, as it was very hard to understand anything the monster was saying with the dialogue electronically processed for effect. From that point on, the play seemed to be a satire played as a whimsical farce. Canberra, politicians, public servants, journalists and others were targeted and the promising relationship between two people established so nicely at the beginning seemed to have less relevance as the play progressed.
According to the writer’s notes in the program, the play ‘is about how to feel at home – in our houses, our streets, our suburbs, our cities and our Universe – but most importantly in our own skin. We ultimately cannot plan and build an individual’s contentment or the sense of connection with the people around them that is the source of their feeling of security and worth in the world.’ If that was the intention, it all got lost somewhere along the way.
The professional cast performed their roles strongly and capably but there was no-one to really identify with and no sense of involvement. Imogen Keen’s production design was fine but the back projection dominated proceedings resulting in awkward scene changes with a large sofa and associated props frequently being taken off and then brought back on again. The director needed to find a better way to manage this.
The back projection worked quite well with generally good choices of images and animations by Danny Wild but the monster wasn’t very interesting to look at. Lighting by Gillian Schwab and sound by Kimmo Vennonen (except for the monster’s voice) were of The Street’s usual high standard.
It’s good to see new plays supported with major productions here in Canberra. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. ‘The Slip Lane’ needs a lot more thought and revision to become a satisfying and memorable play.
Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Artcetera’ program on Saturdays from 9am.