For the record, I don’t want to stick the knife into independent theatre. In fact, for the most part if asked to review it and happy to do it if I can, if it’s the other side of fabulous I will try to give some constructive feedback on what was missing and the effect it had. I also acknowledge that there are varying degrees of indy theatre from co-op top notch to Country Town Players present Wood-de-doo, a sci fi musical in 15 acts.
So when I was invited to review at the newly refurbished King St Theatre the Hopley/EMU production of ‘Deeming’ by Frank Gauntlett, I really didn’t know what end of the spectrum I’d encounter. Two minutes into the show I had my answer.
Now if I’m going to have to slaughter the underfed and brink-of-death cow, I’ve got to think, ‘do I really want to review this show- wouldn’t it be better if it just disappeared?’ so I contacted producer/director Steven Hopley and told him my review could do you no good, I’m going to skip this one. But he was insistent that a bad review is better than no review at all. So here we go…
This play is bad. The script is all over the shop. It doesn’t seem to know what it’s saying- it’s a disconnected garble of colonial characters living in a theatrical world exploring the recent news story of Deeming, a serial killer whose story they want to stage. But alas, the only time this play works is when they (Emily Stewart and Patrick Trumper) are actually trying to do the staged melodramatic elements. The rest of the time the melodrama is incidental and cringe worthy. It’s a series of entrances and exits & the only segueway is when Mrs Dampier (Stewart) comes on with more information from the newspaper updating the story of Deeming. Trumper & Stewart appear to have skills but this is not the showcase for them. I don’t see this play appearing on their list of credits in their bios anytime soon.
Poor cast. Well poor Emily….she’s lumbered playing the wife of a man (Anthony Hunt as Alfred Dampier) old enough to be her father (plus a decade) and the relationship is as believable as Kim Kardashian marrying for love. Add to that, Hunt is clearly repulsed by the idea of touching her and that’s only made worse by the fact that he’s still trying to remember his lines or off napping in the corner in scenes.
The script gave very little for the actors to work with and so I can’t even deconstruct the directorial choices because it’s hard to tell what could have made this play better. I was like a child with ADHD sitting in the audience. Every fibre of my being was fighting against itself in an effort to stay in that space. I thought about faking kidney stones to get out mid show. And at interval when the only clapping comes from the lighting guy at the back because the rest of the audience will not dignify the end of the acting with applause, well take that as a big neon flashing sign that you’ve got a stinker on your hands.
I wish I could offer some sage advice or manipulate bits here and there to suggest that there was potential in the play untapped. I just can't.
Well Mr Hopley, there’s your review. I’m sorry. So so sorry. And I imagine you are too.