Thursday, May 30, 2013

HOW TO BE (or not to be) LOWER

Written and performed by Max Cullen
Directed by Caroline Stacey
The Street Theatre 25 May - 1 June, 2013

Review by Len Power 25 May 2013

‘I wasn’t always a journalist.  I used to be normal.’  Lennie Lower, Australian journalist and humourist of the 1930s and 40s, is the subject of Max Cullen’s one person play.  According to the program notes, Lower’s one novel, ‘Here’s Luck’, published in 1930, became a classic of Australian humour.  As for Lower himself, he was small, dark, nervous and described as ‘serious’, ‘melancholy’, ‘morose’, a marvellous talker and a legendary drinker, all challenging character traits for an actor/writer to work on.

Caroline Stacey’s production at The Street Theatre is generally well-staged on a clever cartoon-like set with great visual projections both designed by Margarita Georgiadis.  The lighting design by Nick Merrylees and sound design by Seth Edwards-Ellis complement the action very well.

Making it clear from the opening that we are watching an actor doing a play about Lennie Lower created an unfortunate barrier between the audience and the character.

Max Cullen gives a strong and sincere performance of a person described as someone ‘one could never get close to’.  Maybe he has been too successful as it was difficult to feel any warmth towards Lower.  He is inebriated and rather pathetic much of the time and his humour also seems dated and not very funny.  The stream of consciousness writing for the character needed more variation to maintain interest.

Lennie Lower was said to be very careful about avoiding facts about his private life.  As presented in this production, he continues to remain elusive.

Originally published in Canberra City News 29 May 2013