This is a story we have all heard before. Drugs are bad. There is no happy ending when it comes to the use and abuse of illicit substances. We are told time and time again where the road most meth-ed inevitably leads to squalor, psychosis and death. Gareth Ellis' multi-award winning play illustrates this exactly without deviation. Four characters living on the fringes of society and I guess sanity, fall victim to their insecurities and fetishes aided by their causal, then increasingly habitual drug use. Basically a watered down version of ‘Requiem for a Dream’.
Not to say that G.Bod Theatre's production of ‘A View of Concrete’ was unsatisfying. Actually this was the most impressive piece I have seen at King St Theatre in quite a while. The corpses of flayed whitegoods are stacked across the stage. Centre stage an old washing machine spins around and Billie (Taryn Brine) is crammed inside and thus we slide into her drug-fuelled urban-fairytale.
After seeing Rebecca Martin in ‘The Mercy Seat’ at the Old Fitz a few weeks earlier, I was looking forward to seeing if her vibrant presence would translate to another role. I was not disappointed. Martin was strong, believable and unwavering in her commitment to her character. Matt Longman was also impressive but it was Tim Dashwood's portrayal of the puck-esque dealer that kept my eyelids from drooping. He managed to display a mixture of vulnerability and aggression, that made you want to fall in love with him, yet never invite him to your house.
Peter Mountford's direction was precise. His use of split focus to shift between each character's narrative was well executed. It is clear a lot of attention was given to the actor's blocking. The cast almost danced around each other, often using each other as props or becoming a part of the set. I will admit I wasn't completely sold on the Disney motif running through the piece. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about dipping productions into the glittery bucket of pop-culture references but the Mickey Mouse ears and the scoring of the more intense scenes with a Disney soundtrack felt a little tacked on and not fully integrated into the piece.
The biggest disappointment in this production was the size of the audience, with only seven of us in the stalls, I felt it was much smaller than it deserved.
I have always felt this play is unnecessarily long and it labours its themes too hard. We get it. Meth is bad. Drugs ruin lives. It just feels so didactic, like I am watching propaganda for the supposed 'war on drugs'. The characters and the scenarios depicted in this piece just feel so far from reality that it is hard to take it seriously. I do think that is important to give a voice to the negative side- effects of drug abuse, but I feel like this piece falls far short of being strong enough to have any impact. It is a story that has been told many times before in a much stronger and more dynamic way.
That said G.Bod Theatre and Emu Productions successfully bring the piece to life and although I clearly have some issues with the play, it is still a production worth seeing.