Tuesday, November 13, 2018

'Considerable complexity' in new Atfield play

Exclusion, written and directed by David Atfield, at The Street Theatre, until November 17. Reviewed by PHILLIP MACKENZIE.

LET us start by evicting the elephant from this review of David Atfield's latest play, “Exclusion”: the three male characters/actors spend as much stage-time naturally and unselfconsciously naked as clothed; while one female staunchly remains fully-dressed,  the other briefly goes ‘the whole Monty'.
The set is as starkly essential and as effective as the naked bodies, with an enigmatic touch behind the rear scrim wall, and the lighting and sound are imaginative and, for the most part, effective.
Now to the real nuts-and-bolts of the play – and there are enough of them to keep the actors, and the audience, on their toes. “Exclusion” is a deft construction of many themes,  political, social, sensual, intellectual, emotional, religious and sexual. 

Ethan Gibson as Craig Morrow, Michael Sparks as Michael Connor, photo Shelly Higgs

Two alpha males (Jasper Ferrier and Michael Connor played respectively and respectfully by Craig Alexander and Michael Sparks), with competing political ambitions are brought face-to-face (or belly-to-belly) with their frustrated or suppressed sexual realities through the agency of a self-aware millennial (Craig Morrow, played honestly by Ethan Gibson), the only male who understands the implications of his homosexuality and his emotional commitment to the devious Jasper. 
Jasper and Michael are married, respectively, to the fecund and worldly Jacinta (Fiona Victoria Hopkins) and the sterile 'Christian' Caroline (Tracy Bourne).

Craig Alexander as Jasper Ferrier,Ethan Gibson as Craig Morrow, photo Shelly Higgs

The depth of Jasper's deception has to be understood in the context of his having fathered five offspring with Jacinta who, for all her intelligence, has either been unaware of or has ignored, of her own venial purposes, her husband's duplicity and, it must be said, shows little of the 'wear and tear' one might expect of a mother of five. 

Fiona Victoria Hopkins as Jacinta Ferrier, Tracy Bourne as Caroline Connor, photo by Shelly Higgs.

All four characters are well constructed and believable. Only the saintly, fundamentalist Caroline is somewhat of a stereotype and fails to convince as a real person, despite Tracy Bourne's best efforts.
This production of the play is not without its faults, however peripheral РGrange Hermitage is not a ros̩, Michael Connor would hardly risk being caught naked in the corridor between his and Craig's rooms, the constantly flickering TV in the background irritates rather than informs, and men of the status and ambition of all three male characters would have quality shoes, polished.
Notwithstanding, David Atfield has written a play of considerable complexity, dealing honestly and engagingly with contemporary political and moral issues now open to such examination and exposure. It deserves to go far, even in our less sophisticated cities.