Saturday, November 18, 2017

L'Amour et la Mort

L’Amour et la Mort – Plays by Judith Peterson, Helen Way and Rachel Hogan with original songs by the BetaBlockers.  Allycat Productions at Le Tres Bon, Bungendore, November 3 and 10, and Smiths Alternative, Canberra, November 17, 2017.

Direction by Rachel Hogan; Tech support – Bevan Noble

Reviewed by Frank McKone
November 17

Act of Will by Helen Way
    Improvisation by Helen Way as Will Shakespeare, with Rachel Hogan as Post and audience members (two on this occasion: one as an anti-clockwise pole – or rather, post – dancer, and the other as a stand-in Post duelling in metaphors with Will Shakespeare, making the physical Post irrelevant).

A Modern Day Tragedy by Judith Peterson
    A woman, Juliette, is married to a man, Romeo, who stays out late drinking with his mates and expects her to have his dinner ready for him when he comes home drunk.  She meets a woman friend in a bar who offers a potion which, in small amounts, can make her seem temporarily dead.  This will test whether Romeo really does love her.  Juliette takes what seems to be too much. 

When Romeo finds her dead, he calls her a silly cow, and plans to lead his own life how he likes.  Except that he has never fixed the loose carpet, trips over and stabs himself with his pen-knife.  He almost dies several times, once on top of the dead Juliette, and finally flat out on the floor. 

Juliette wakes up after all, finds him dead, decides she’s had enough of him and leaves to lead her own life.  Romeo then wakes up after all, and leaves to lead his own life.
The Angle of Sympathy by Rachel Hogan
    In which short funeral director Gaylord (Peter Fock) trains new recruit, tall Mr Long (Michael Ubrihien) in the 20 degree angle of sympathy required in posture when commiserating with family members of the dead; and Mr Long mathematically solves the problem of hoisting the cardboard training coffin on their differentially high shoulders, at the 20 degree angle of sympathy, to avoid the metaphorically dead teddy from being jolted out of the coffin during a fast funeral procession.

Bad Egg by Judith Peterson
    Two female magpies (Barbi Jones and Helen Way) discuss the fine details of maintaining good relations with the humans, sensitively swooping within decent limits; while the male bad egg of the family (Daniel Tonon) is totally out to scare the wits out of everyone in the neighbourhood.  After he nearly kills himself attacking a garbage truck, but still glorying in his achievement, one female now sees him as her hero, to the confusion of her sensible friend.

Into the Sun by Judith Peterson
    A man (Peter Fock) whose wife died a year ago, has always followed the expectations of others.  He is afraid to positively respond, despite his real feelings, when his woman neighbour (Judith Peterson) and previously friend of his wife, tries to initiate a conversation about how they feel about each other.  After a lengthy embarrassing attempt, she insists she will be independent and take a boat trip on her own.  He at last shows initiative by offering to go by train.  She immediately accepts without hesitation for a happy ending.

Teddy as L'Amour and Skeleton as la Mort
keep an eye on L'Amour et la Mort
at Smiths Alternative

My straight descriptions of the plays, interspersed with rather quietly sung philosophical songs in the folk tradition by the BetaBlockers, give you little idea of how entertaining, funny and unpretentious these quirky vignettes turned out to be.  The relaxed, friendly and essentially intimate atmosphere of Smiths Alternative, the one-time left-wing bookshop now bar and jazz venue, was the perfect place for these gently satirical digs at the little exigencies of life. 

It might not be grand theatre, but there’s certainly a place for this kind of small-scale highly independent theatre that Allycats provides – it’s one lobe of the heart of the city which, it used to be said, was without a soul.