Friday, August 3, 2018

Review: Two new theatrical enterprises

Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo and Franca Rama, directed by Clare Moss for Limbo Theatre Co in collaboration with Honest Puck, 1-4 August.
The Judas Kiss by David Hare, Directed by Karina Hudson for Mockingbird Theatre.
IN the past fortnight two new theatrical enterprises have strutted their stuff on Canberra's stages, each winning a warm round of applause – the fledgling Mockingbird Theatre with The Judas Kiss and Limbo Theatre Co (in a co-production with Honest Puck) with Accidental Death of an Anarchist, adding their weight to the plethora of existing companies.
Some of the latter will have to look to their standards if they are to survive in this maelstrom of initiative and talent.
L. Damon Baudin, R. Hayden Splitt
The Dario Fo/Franca Rame modern classic Accidental Death of an Anarchist, skilfully directed by Clare Moss, is the perfect launching pad for the Limbo/Honest Puck collaboration,  wildly comedic and searingly satirical.
The talented cast work as an ensemble to pull off some of the most difficult slapstick stunts while presenting creditable, if venial, characters and lampooning the corruptibility of organs of state. One might make the comparison with the classic Charlie Chaplin/Buster Keaton/ Monty Python styles, but this should not obscure the originality of the Fo/Rame product.
The play is the authors' response to an real-life incident in which an innocent demonstrator falls victim to the machinations of the flawed forces of the law, impersonated by Hayden Splitt in the multiple roles of the Maniac, persecuted by the inept Bertozzo, Pissano, and Superintendent (Nick Steain, Izaac Beach and Damon Baudin with the support of the gullible constable(s), Anna Van der Velde).
So athletic and acrobatic are these actors in their endlessly energetic encounters with vengeful filing cabinets and other furniture that one fears for the longevity of the set – particularly the hard-working door, whose trembling frame only adds to the theatrical silliness of the show.
The original script is not entirely flawless as it tends to run out of steam in the second act and clunks a little with faux Fo material referencing later political targets, as well as committing the crime of introducing a new character in the last 15 minutes – the reporter Feletti, played by Imogene Irvine, who has a tough time catching up with and matching the madness of the rest of the ensemble.
Liam Jackson as Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas and Chris Baldock as Oscar Wilde
DAVID Hare’s play, The  Judas Kiss, opens in Oscar Wilde's rooms at the Cadogan Hotel, London, on the day that Oscar needs to decide whether to flee to Europe or to stay and go to jail.
Before the debate begins, however, we are treated to a gratuitous display of Sex-in-the-Victorian-city, as performed by the downstairs maid (Meaghan Stewart) and the apprentice butler (Cole Hinder). Their little uninhibited gambol, it turns out, has nothing to do with the rest of the play, which proceeds after Arthur's boss Sandy Moffatt (Arran McKenna) puts an end to their fun and games.
Enter the noble Robbie Ross, (reliably acted by Patrick Galen-Mules) one-time lover of the Great Man, and his successful rival, the rather less noble Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas, played  less successfully by Liam Jackson; and Chris Baldock, playing Oscar Wilde.
Under the direction of Karina Hudson in her debut directorial role, the three men engage in a complex and wordy debate-cum-contest for the role of advisor to Wilde, in which the central figure vacillates and philosophises across a range of themes.
It is a debate that cries out for at least an occasional display of the Wildean flamboyance amid the tendentiousness of the Wildean intellectual philosophising. But Baldock sets himself on the latter path, while morosely sipping his red wine, masquerading as ‘hock.’
BY Act II, Wilde has served his 18-month sentence for gross indecency and, after interval, we join Wilde and the nasty Bosie in Naples where we find ourselves in another nude scene involving Bosie, modestly wrapped in the bed-linen and the sexy Galileo Masconi (played by Benjamin Balte Russell) who, declining modest coverage, converses in fluent Italian with the equally fluent but now down-fallen yet still verbose Wilde who is now destitute-on-principle and suffering from an apparently terminal bout of writer's block.
The script skips the prison period, during which Wilde wrote his last major piece, De Profundis, and thus gives inadequate background to Wilde's state of mind as an exile.
Baldock provides a sound representation of the central character's physical properties, intellectual arrogance and moroseness without getting waylaid by any suggestion of emotional stimulus.
Bosie, having been lured by the promise of Mummy's money back into the family circle from which he had strayed, makes a feeble effort to encourage the lover whom he had betrayed to mend his ways and take the proffered 30 pieces of redemption. After a final assignation with the compliant Galileo, Bosie leaves Wilde bereft and heading towards death.
While Bosie and Galileo are off on a final fling downtown, the faithful Robbie arrives with news of Oscar's wife and children, but not much else to help Oscar to get back in the saddle.